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Nikita (La Femme Nikita) (1990)

A beautiful woman becomes a deadly weapon

Directed by:

Luc Besson

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: France

Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is a violent and out-of-control psychotic drug addict and killer. When she is convicted of her crimes, she finds herself not in jail but in a government-run training programme for agents and assassins. Presented with a fait accompli – her 'death' and funeral already having taken place – she has little choice but to go along with the demands placed on her. Her approach to the training is unconventional and violent, and she provides a great challenge to her superiors. More than once, they wonder if she will ever fulfil her potential.

On her 20th birthday, she is reminded of the threat to her life, and warned that she must make more progress – improvements she has made are not obvious to her superiors, and they are unsure of her worth. She is given just two weeks to prove herself, but she turns herself around and by her 23rd birthday is a competent young woman ready to do what is asked of her. Her birthday celebration at an expensive restaurant turns out to be her first job and test – she must follow her instructions, kill her targets and escape, which proves much harder than expected. Now she is a killer with a new life, but it is the things everyone else takes for granted that will pose her the greatest challenge.

As always, Besson's work is stylish and wonderful to look at. The often-frantic Nikita is not always an easy character to like, but Parillaud gives her depth and vulnerability that makes her interesting. The story takes place over a number of years, and unfortunately this isn't always smoothly managed – the jump between her birthdays, and between her being given her assignment and leaving to carry it out are particularly jarring. The Besson-written plot is typically implausible, and full of occasional holes, but fascinating nevertheless.

It's Got: Lots of visual style.

It Needs: The passage of time to be handled more comprehensively.

DVD Extras Theatrical trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Leon, The Good Thief, The Jackal

Summary

A stylish and gripping thriller with visual interest and a strong lead character. Vastly superior to the US remake ('Point of No Return’).

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