Nikita (1990) is a 30 year old’s teen dream
Le Femme Nikita (1990) stars thirty year old Anne Parillaud as Nikita, a young junkie who gets into all sorts of trouble and goes on all sorts of adventures. This movie is clearly a 90s rebellion movie, and it really enjoys that spotlight. It is a strange coming-of-age movie, except instead of dating and proms, it has assassinations and drugs. Not to mention, the murder, violence, and guns involved. I would probably say it is most similar to The Professional (1994), except Le Femme Nikita shows what actually would happen if the little girl became a professional killer for real.
Certifiably insane, Nikita trips out on drugs, shoots a cop in the head and stabs another in the hand in the first ten minutes. That’s the kind of rebellion we’re talking about here. As she’s sentenced to life in prison, but they have to carry her from the court as she cusses everybody out like a crazy woman. Somebody forgot her pills.
Instead of taking her to prison, the shadow government carts off the crazy woman to be a crazy assassin. Who knows why. Who knows what they saw in her. Her shadow government recruiter tells her about her “death”, but she clonks him over the head with a chair and holds him at gunpoint, trying to crazy her way out of the situation. He just whaps her and shoots her in the knee. Pretty effective. Does she stop with the crazies?
Hell no, what kind of movie do you think this is? She actually hones her crazies into fighting prowess. Crazy slapping, crazy pinpoint shooting, and crazy karate. One day, her karate instructor surprises her, so she bites his ear and kicks him in the face. She dances a jig to some Mozart in celebration. The crazies continue with amusement.
Much like Leon in The Professional, Nikita also has a male confidant. As “Bob”, Tchéky Karyo comes close to Jean Reno’s performance, and adds a bit of charm and flair that Reno lacks in his movie. Bob is the upper class French government agency guy, a real smooth customer. Jean Reno’s Leon is a smooth customer too, but lacks the social grace that makes Bob a great guy.
Not coincidentally, Luc Besson directed both this movie in 1990 and The Professional in 1994. Nikita seems like a warm-up for The Professional, but I think both movies have they’re great moments.
The middle of the movie is charming and light, which is surprising for an assassination movie. The last half is emotional. While on the job, she regresses somewhat, unable to tell her boyfriend about her double life. She handles some small jobs easily, but things get messed up on bigger ones, requiring Victor to come do clean-up duty. Jean Reno makes his first appearance as Victor, a deadly assassin sent to clean up the crap she made. This is where Luc Besson met him and later reused him in The Professional because of his performance, which is short, but effective. He’s cold and calculated, almost too cold, as if this movie is a satire. I like it.
All in all, this is a good movie. It’s French, though it has subtitles. It has inspired an English TV series and an English movie remake. It’s well-made and a good character study. Anne Parillaud does good work as Nikita, but it’s not hard playing crazy and off the chain. The challenge comes in the second half of the movie, where Nikita’s true emotion and morality leaks out. Her face speaks volumes about a depressing hatred of her life and she obviously doesn’t have the best self-esteem, which is probably why “they” recruited her in the first place. This movie is a satire on the profession of violence, and tells us that assassins are not at all cold. Not for real.
Nikita was a druggie and crazy, then became an assassin, while hiding as a normal person the whole time. She rides off to try to become a normal person for real, and I watched it hoping she would succeed, so I have to complement this movie in that great achievement.