on March 30, 2000
Some of the greatest French movies have been remade for US audiences and no one knows about it: Trois hommes et un couffin/Three men and a baby, The Talented Mr Ripley/Plein Soleil (With Alain Delon - where do you think Matt Damon got his pointers?), Le Retour de Martin Guerre/Sommersby... among others. La Femme Nikita is yet another that is way above its American counterpart, The Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda, and deserves its own spot in your movie collection. The TV series doesn't count.
Nikita was written and directed by an (at the time) up and coming Frenchman by the name of Luc Besson (Subway, The Professional, the Fifth Element...) who has fantastic mind for action, eye for cinematography and sense for musical scores (Nikita has some great industrial sounds which you can also find in the Fifth Element). Released in 1991, this film pre-dates the canonized litany of films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
More importantly, and as some reviewers have noted, Nikita combines thrilling action and tension (without expensive FX) with a very touching sense of humanity. Here you have this junkie social reject turned into a well behaved, proper, yet deadly government agent. It's interesting how the government selected someone about to go to jail rather than picking from a horde of eager, patriotic young recruits that would beg to do the job. Their fault is that they assume that this reject is just effectively a machine and has no redeeming human qualities. As the film progresses, you see that Nikita yearns for intimacy and love - it's what makes her vulnerable and it's also probably what makes her so good.
Anne Parrillaut plays an excellent Nikita - crazy, kind, warm, insane, feminine, athletic, anarchistic and maternal. Quite a walking contradiction.... yes.
Joining Parrillaut are great performances by Jean Reno (The Professional, Ronin, Le Grand Bleu) as Le Nettoyeur (the cleaner) and Marc Duret as her instructor and mentor. Jeanne Morreau also brings a very human element to the
Some criticize the ending for not been satisfying... Fair enough, it's clearly a "French" ending, but I think it's the right ending. The governments wants her to be an obedient machine, her boyfriend wants her to be a nice little wife and nurse. Neither of those are really who she is and that's the ending is such.
As for the language issue... The French or subtitled version is the only way to go. So much of acting is in the speech and delivery that accepting a dubbed version basically says that you think actors are just pretty faces. The great thing about the DVD is that you have the French, Subtitled and English version all in one. Granted, I speak French. But I hate watching American movies dubbed in French just as bad.
La Femme Nikita is/has become somewhat of a cult classic in the US (already is in France)and is one of the movies that put Besson on the map. Regardless of that, it stands on its own as a great movie. Highly recommended....
on July 1, 2003
The movie gets five stars, but this new special edition disc gets one. I own the previous MGM release of this movie which was widely known to have many picture and subtitle problems. I loved the movie enough to purchase this new version. With my fingers crossed, I popped the disc in...
...zut alors! The anamorphic widescreen picture quality is still lousy. Grainy, occasionally pixelized. Look at patterns in the background during the movie and the problems are quite evident. For example, in one scene when Nikita is in training and chatting with her trainer Bob in her room, a grill on a piece of furniture on the left side of the screen creates a hugely distracting pattern that always diverts my eye.
But we get some special features with this special edition, right? Only with the most liberal definition of "special." These empty chats and documentaries are considered standard features for most other DVDs, so I'm not sure what we're supposed to think is special. There's even an easter egg, though it's not hidden, so I guess it's just an egg. But since it's just a short set of film clips, not all that exciting, I guess it's a rotten egg.
There are a few improvements. The English subtitles are better less distracting to those of you who speak French. The 5.1 soundtrack is still solid, though not noticeably better than the one on the original MGM disc. I'm not sure if it was remixed. If you don't own a copy of this movie, by all means buy the special edition. If you own the previous version, learn from my mistake and either keep you original version or sell it and buy a used copy of the special edition. Or lobby MGM for a real "special" edition.
The "Nikita" hardcore can celebrate MGM's rerelease of the French action film, a single-disc affair that should erase memories of the studio's botched first DVD, from three years ago.
The initial "La Femme Nikita" DVD failed director Besson miserably, with visuals just a step up from the VHS. The new special edition looks a lot better, although some digital artifacts remain. Flesh tones seem true and the handsome French interiors get back their luster. Audio wasn't bad on the first disc, and it sounds about the same on the new DVD. The film comes widescreen only (2.35:1), with the 16x9 enhancement.
A new 20-minute featurette interviews the key actors, but not Besson. The director's music man, Eric Serra, has his say on an interesting 5-minute extra, "The Sound of 'Nikita.' " An easter egg reveals one of Besson's working methods.
Ann Parillaud, who played Nikita, looks a lot more relaxed these days. The actress recalls training with weapons and martial arts for a year before filming began. She found karate "violent, painful and scary," but became obsessed with the firearms. Jean Reno, who went on to international stardom, says he played his popular Victor the Cleaner character without reading the script -- Besson had him walk right into the film.
The DVD also includes a pointless "interactive map" that explores Nikita's habitats. A goofy trailer and a poster gallery complete the package.
on January 20, 2009
I'm not going to say anything about the film itself because we all know how good it is. It's Besson's best ever.
What I will say is that watching it in High Definition on Blu-Ray is a real treat. Picture and sund are truly amazing and blow away the prior DVD's, all of which had lackluster picture quality at best.
And yes, this release has the properly translated subtitle track. Some DVD releases had a word for word transcription of the terrible English dubbed track. Not so here, so no worries.
However, extras are nowhere to be found. Is it too much to ask that this film finally receives a special edition?
on May 3, 2001
WARNING: This is NOT the Theatrical Released Subtitled version.
MGM for whatever reason has completely changed the english subtitles on their dvd and they are TERRIBLE!
If you have seen the originl movie, you know that the award winning Besson film is edgy; intelligent. The re-subtitling of this movie is absurd and frustrating to watch.
Request that the out of stock dvd by Samuel Goldwyn be re-distributed and send MGM a message. Foreign films should not be manipulated for any reasons whatsoever.
on March 29, 2009
I was worried this Blu-Ray would be "so-so" in the sharpness department.....but not worry: it looks just fine! It will be in my collection shortly.
This 1989 French film was justifiably so popular that an American re-make followed later and then a cable television series followed after that.
In this - the original - you see "Nikita" at its beginning and, most people agree, at her best. Anne Parillaud, an actress I've always found fascinating, is riveting as the lead character. Jean-Huges Anglade, Tcheky Karyo and Jean Reno provide a very strong supporting cast.
The characters were believable and it was refreshing to see a no-nonsense approach to a murder story, meaning if someone had to be killed, they were shot quickly with no questions asked. Some of the action scenes are brutal.
Parillaud's character is memorable. She can change appearances, from a hard- nosed hysterical animal to a real lady. It's also interesting to see Reno in a familiar role as a "cleaner," a role he made famous four years later in "Leon: The Professional."
The DVD provides either easy-to-read subtitles or a well-done dubbed version. As mentioned, the Blu-Ray version is a definite step up from the last DVD.
on January 23, 2003
Remember in "My Fair Lady" when Rex Harrison transforms flower girl Audrey Hepburn into a sophisticated member of higher society? Well, that's the same premise behind director Luc Besson's "La Femme Nikita" - only this time around the object of the metamorphosis is turned into a professional assassin. Anne Parillaud plays a troubled drug addict who attempts to rob a drugstore along with some fellow junkies. The robbery goes horribly wrong and she kills a police officer in the melee. The courts sentence her to death but her execution is faked and Nikita is shipped to a secret government training center where she is slowly programmed to kill. Nikita complies with her new role in life until she meets a grocery store clerk and falls in love with him. The onslaught of new emotions complicate matters and Nikita must choose whether to follow her current path in life or carve out a new one for herself. Parillaud is exceptional in the role of Nikita. She gives a performance that is both feral and touching at the same time. There are also welcome turns by Tchéky Karyo, Jeanne Moreau, and Jean Reno which enhances the film even more. If there's anyone out there who doubts whether a solid action film can be made with a female lead, then that person should just take a look at La Femme Nikita and all doubts will be erased.
on February 17, 2009
Super Bluray. The film, of course, is excellent, although it never has been clear to me why the authorities would want a criminal to become their agent. However, once you swallow that incongruity, it is an engrossing film. The Bluray transfer is excellent, rich colors, sharp definition, action remains crisp, but that is probably because my HDTV's have the requisite fpm's. If you like action films, and if you've liked the previous recordings of this, you will love the Bluray version. Definitely worth updating from DVD.
on May 30, 2006
Sacre Bleu! So Society made her!---young, jaded, drug-crazed, punkish Nikita, set her wandering addled to run amok on the streets of Paris, and yet was horrified---astounded, I tell you, Mon Dieu!---that as the Piece de Resistance of a particularly bloody little performance of street theater and robbery, she would smirk, giggle, and send a 9MM shell through the brains of a French police officer.
So what could Society do? They made her---and then they made her a really damned good Killer!
That boils it all down to the guts and gore and bones of Luc Besson's supremely entertaining, absurdly confident little concoction of rage, high style, and wildly brutal wetworks, served up with a bouncy little techno score and Besson's trademark cynical grimness and operatic direction.
Locked down in the concrete and steel bowels of the French Deuxieme Bureau, burrowed well into the guts of that part of Ze Gay Paree tourists won't find on their maps, grouchy old Uncle Bob (Tcheky Karyo in a seamless, perfect role, looking as though he chews drill bits for breakfast and shaves with a dull axe) presents our waify little cop-killa with a Big Choice: get deep-sixed, or join the Civil Service!
Woot! And hours before, she didn't even have a decent resume!
So Nikita gets what you might call a Super-Duper Extreme Makeover, and hits the streets in service to God & Country: travelling to strange and fascinating places, meeting all sorts of people, and whacking them with extreme prejudice.
The delicious irony is that our little proto-punk plumb becomes more human as the bloodthirstiness of her state-sanctioned depravities become more monstrous. Like---"I've been on the job for a few weeks, and it's all double, double, toil and trouble. When can I retire?" Hey, don't hate her, she's only French: Gallic work-ethic and all.
Truly, who can blame her?---it's France, where the workaholics put in their 30-hour workweeks and flee for the countryside for months on end. Hell, the poor girl is expected to be on call 24/7, taking phone calls from middle management in the middle of the night, and, Zut Alors!---whacking people, of all things. Talk about a hostile work environment!
All of this comes together brilliantly in Besson's film, which fairly pulses with a steady, nasty menace: Karyo puts up with Nikita's insolence, but you can tell he's on a pretty short leash. The puppy is cute, no doubt, but if it doesn't learn to heel quickly, he'll twist its head off and go puppy-hunting.
Besson is at his best; the direction is paced but still freakishly kinetic: the world of nihilistic destruction lurking just beneath all the Gucci and Prada and Givenchy is a tasty little bloody nugget---I'll pay to visit.
The acting is just fine: scrumptious Anne Parillaud and the hulking Karyo serve as fine foils poised for a duel, one becoming a human being even as she carries out monstrosities, the other becoming more freakish even as he fumbles at a sane relationship. An Indonesian diplomat gets literally flushed down a drain. Jean Reno (The Cleaner, oh who can forget the glorious Cleaner!) comes calling, big traveling bags bulging with killing tools and plenty of high-powered corrosive acid.
All of this is in service to a Great Moral: there is no Criminal walking the Earth that can't be made a better Killer with a government paycheck and shiny new Embassy plates.
Anyway: in France, Crime may not pay---but High Crime comes with full benefits and a generous pension. This is the good stuff, folks: bon appetit.
on October 24, 2005
"La Femme Nikita" could easily be dismissed as your standard action film involving a female assassin. Director Luc Besson has a flair for portraying action but the film is elevated by focusing it on the psyche of the title character. The film is further enhanced by a powerhouse central performance by Anne Parillaud. Parillaud is asked to tackle a character who through circumstance must adopt three personas. As Nikita, she is the soulless drug addict who cold-bloodedly kills a police officer. To gain reprieve from the death chamber she's reluctantly recruited into a government training program for assassins and is given the alias of Josephine. On holiday from covert ops and adopting the cover of nurse and loving fiancee she is Marie. Sometimes she has to juggle two identities at once as demonstrated in a scene where she is in a Venice bathroom with a high powered rifle targeting an assignment while her fiancee makes entreaties to her outside the door. It is in scenes like this that Parillaud shines because she demonstrates the strain of a woman forced into a life not of her choosing. In a sentence you can describe this film as the thinking person's action film.