Anthony's Film Review

Nikita (1990)

Nikita presents a memorable character in a well-crafted action thriller...

The 1990 French/Italian crime film Nikita, also known in the United States as La Femme Nikita, is definitely a movie to see if you like strong women in action. But what's make it a very good movie isn't the action. Rather, it's character development and smooth direction. It's one of those movies that, in a way, deviates a little from an expected genre formula without defying it. It's a movie that gives the audience a reason to care about the action and the main character involved.

The first thing that I liked about the movie was its pacing. When it starts, it doesn't take a few minutes to introduce something before going into the action. It goes straight into the action, where a gang of hoodlums attempt to break into a pharmacy. The heist goes wrong when the police arrive and a gunfight ensues, killing all but one of the crooks. That survivor is a young girl named Nikita, who at first glance appears to be oblivious to what's going because she is found listening to music while wearing headphones. But thinking that she is harmless is a mistake, as one cop learns when Nikita shoots him.

Nikita is sentenced to life in prison, but interestingly enough, the government saves her. From a tough-looking but fair official named Bob, Nikita learns that she is given the option to enroll in a secret government program that trains assassins for the state. Her records are falsified to make the public think that she committed suicide, giving her a chance to start fresh. Refusal would mean that she would be dead for real. Hence, she accepts. For the next half hour of the movie, Nikita undergoes training of weapons and fighting, which she excels at, as well as skills in writing, reading, and use of the computer, some of which seem new to her.

We finally get another action scene in which Nikita is given a task that doubles as an evaluation of her performance and a real assignment. She has to kill someone in a restaurant and escape. What could be an easy task turns out to be complicated, as her gunshot leads to an intense shootout in the restaurant kitchen. But it all ends well. Nikita eventually completes her training and is instructed to live her life while functioning as a sleeper agent. Her new name is Marie, but when contacted for assignments, she will be referred to as Josephine.

The rest of the movie is like the first half, with about two-thirds drama and one-third action. While rebuilding her life, Nikita meets a young handsome grocery store cashier named Marco as she makes a large purchase of food. It is not long before the two fall in love. It is also not long before Nikita is called for an urgent assignment. She is forced to lie to Marco that she works at a hospital and is often on call. From here on out, it might be challenging for her to live this double life.

Throughout the movie, I couldn't help but care about Nikita. Even as a trained assassin, she is psychologically vulnerable, particularly late in the movie when she clearly cannot confront death and maintain control. The central conflict in this story isn't between one country or organization versus another, but an internal emotional struggle for Nikita. How long can she maintain her efforts to keep her work as a sleeper agent an absolute secret? There's another notable scene where Nikita has to perform the duty of a sniper, even as Marco is in another room on the other side of a closed door. Best of all, Nikita has transformed from a sociopathic criminal into an elegant woman who experiences, for the first time, true love.

This is a well-written thoughtful movie that develops a character while delivering just enough action to satisfy fans of the genre. Luc Besson, as writer, develops the story nicely and, as director, presents the drama and action with ease and in a very engaging way. And the movie certainly benefits from the performances of the cast, including Anne Parillaud as Nikita, Jean-Hugues Anglade as Marco, and Tcheky Karyo as Bob, plus Jeanne Moreau as Amande who gives Nikita a makeover and Jean Reno as Victor the cleanup assassin in a brief but memorable performance. The result is an action drama and thriller that definitely stands out in the genre.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Nikita, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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