French movie made in 1990 which spawned a remake in 1993 called Point of No Return and a television show on the USA Network called La Femme Nikita.

PoNR is a nasty, Americanized version starring Bridget Fonda as an utterly unbelievable secret agent and Gabriel Byrne as her handler. Byrne phones in all his lines, seemingly too bored with the lackluster performance of his red-headed charge to even bother emoting.

La Femme Nikita is a slick, gorgeous show starring Peta Wilson as an utterly convincing street waif turned secret agent. Between the crisp costuming, the stateless Eurocool attitude, accents, and faces, the flawless art direction and the compelling storylines, LFN is a stone-cold winner.

Nikita, the movie which started it all, is a hugely underrated film and cult classic among those who bother to read imdb.com for more than just the new box office winners. Jean Reno makes a chilling appearance as Victor the Cleaner; a soulless custodian called in to mop up everything when the big mission goes awry.

The original movie was written and directed by the French filmmaker Luc Besson and was released in 1990. Anne Parillaud starred in the title role and put in an absolutely unreal performance.

Nikita is a young drug addict who is cornered by the police during a robbery she and her friends are committing. In a psychotic haze of heroin craving, she proceeds to grab a gun and liquidate most of the policemen, which marks her out as a potential candidate for a secret police unit specialising in assassinations. She is given a choice between death and joining the cadre.

Besson portrays Nikita as a complete tabula rasa, a person with no personality. She in violent, but not belligerent, vicious but not malicious. She has no conception of normality or sociability. Out of this malleable putty her educators create a killing machine, superficially glazed with a layer of elegance and manners (Jeanne Moreau is chilling and awesome as her deportment coach). The relationship between Nikita and Bob (Tchéky Karyo), her mentor and the agent personally responsible for her training, is a convoluted, intense, symbiotic struggle between a prisoner and her jailer, a creator and his masterpiece, a rebellious child and a an inscrutable father figure with his own, palpably dangerous, agenda.

Much has been extrapolated on the relationship Nikita forms with Rico, a young man she meets in a supermarket soon after she finishes her training and moves out of the underground compound where it took place. The healing powers of love, the redevelopment of individuality after military indoctrination, the craving for normality. For myself, I found Rico to be a non-player in the overall scheme of the movie, and their relationship pretty much a non-event. Parillaud's Nikita is feral, raw and completely unselfconcious. She is an explorer of life in the same way a baby is - she will touch, taste and take a part anything that comes in her way (in a tour de force of acting, she even has baby-like body language and mannerisms) - including sex and emotion. For her, the relationship is just another exploration, an exciting adventure, a novelty like every other aspect of a life which she is unfamiliar with.

The ultimate statement of the movie is about individuality and freedom - when was Nikita most free? When she was a homeless slave to her drug addiction? When her inherent power and violence were first tapped? When she finally graduated out of the almost sadistically regimented psychological constraints of the training facility? When she gave free reign to her emotions and passions with Rico? Or, just maybe, she was at her most wild at the end, when her bonds with everything - the drugs, Bob, Rico, violence - are finally and irrevocably broken?

Hrm. A note about the above:

Nikita does not, in fact, waste any more than one police man. She's pretty much in a daze for the majority of the shoot out, and only takes down on cop, and it's not even certain if she realizes she's doing it. Her friends are the ones who take out the rest of the folks involved.

To continue, my take on the movie is as follows:

I do not, generally, see Nikita as a ravening sociopath on the lookout for new experience.

She generally comes across far more as a street punk/junkie who has no appreciation of life, of reason, etc., until she's put into the assassin program. There, in the midst of the training, she's presented with the cold fact that her life is now owned, that she can be destroyed at any time, and that she actually has to live up to a standard for once.

And she begins to care. She becomes professional. She even, upon being released into the world, begins to care about having a life (and a boyfriend)...but always aware of the hollowness behind it all precisely because she is owned by her employers.

And where her teacher formerly saw merely a psychopathic street waif, he now sees a young woman, full of life and potential. And has to decide how to react to it.

All of Luc Besson's movies include some measure of personal change for their main characters. Corbin Dallas learns to love, Leon comes to care about something more than his plant and his professionalism, Joan of Arc learns to face her issues of vengeance and accept...Nikita learns to respect life, and to need to have a life, to have reason, to have love.

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