Sometimes European filmmakers create hard-edged heroines who, at first glance, do not seem as though they would appeal to American audiences. A recent example, of course, is “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Yet the success of this Swedish film emboldened American filmmakers to invest in an English-language version of the film. A few weeks ago, this column reviewed “Point of No Return,” which was based on the 1991 French film “La Femme Nikita,” a dark story with a hard-to-like heroine.
This movie stars Anne Parillaud as the troubled Nikita. When the audience meets her, she is a strung-out junkie who, along with a few other street thugs, robs a pharmacy. Not exactly seasoned burglars, they are blindsided when the police arrive. A shootout erupts, and Nikita kills a cop. After her trial and being sentenced to life in prison, she wakes up in a room and does not know what has happened to her. She meets Bob (played by Tcheky Karyo), a government agent who informs her she has been given a second chance. Nikita now has the opportunity to train to be an assassin. After her training is complete, she is released from the facility to start her new life. Her initial assignments go well, she proves to be a talented and creative killer. Her success, however, is dependent upon her maintaining a level of anonymity. At a grocery store, she meets Marco (played by Jean-Hugues Anglade), and they soon move in together. Because of Nikita’s unorthodox profession, she has to be secretive with him, which threatens their relationship.
Anne Parillaud is amazing in the lead role. From the early scenes in which she is a desperate, strung-out junkie to the climactic ones in which she is a femme fatale in complete control of truly difficult situations, she commands the camera.
There are several impressive shootout scenes in the film. One of the best is a scene where our heroine has to kill some people while in a hotel room when she on vacation with Marco in Venice. Nikita must keep what she is doing secret, which is hard since her boyfriend is in the next room.
With its tough female protagonist “La Femme Nikita” is a great choice for fans of unconventional action films.