La Femme Nikita: Special Edition
On its release in 1991, many critics compared La Femme Nikita to G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion with Eliza Doolittle, in this case, being a street-wise junkie punk named Nikita (Anne Parillaud). A gunfight erupts during an attempt by Nikita and her gang of fellow ne'er-do-wells to rob a drugstore, and everyone's left dead except our young Eliza; after her trial, she's offered a chance to avoid prison by joining an elite government group that specializes in political assassinations. At first, Nikita seems an odd choice for government work but agents have been watching her for some time, and it turns out that behind her vacant eyes and gutter-punk clothing, the girl's got a wealth of street skills. She also has something going for her that's even more valuable no noticeable moral compass (a requisite for trained killers). The first half of the film is a fascinating examination of her transformation from crazed street kid to trained assassin as the first of her tutors, an agent named Bob (Tcheky Karyo), gives her a general education in the finer points of spying, including martial arts and the handling of high-end weapons. She's then handed over to Amande (Jeanne Moreau), who transforms Nikita into a woman of the world, teaching her how to dress, use makeup, and comport herself in public with class. Transformed into a modern-day Mata Hari and armed with Amande's advice that there are "two things that have no limit: femininity and the means of taking advantage of it," Nikita starts fulfilling her assignments with deadly precision. But her transformation has a downside it seems that Nikita is now open to softer feelings of love, which arrive in the form of a cute supermarket checker named Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade) who, naturally, knows nothing about what Nikita does for a living. Director Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) has a real affinity for sullen, androgynous girl-heroes, and La Femme Nikita works best during the transformation segments of the film Parillaud is at her most interesting when she's feral and sullen, trapped by circumstance into training with the manipulative Bob. But taken as a whole, the film which was remade as the tepid 1993 Point of No Return and inspired a TV show is a fresh spin on a fairly predictable genre, with Besson punching up all the expected twists and throwing in a few of his own for good measure. Nikita, simply put, kicks ass. MGM Home Video's Special Edition disc (which replaces an earlier DVD release) offers a decent anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) the source-print can be a little grainy, but it looks very good nonetheless. The new French Dolby 5.1 audio is excellent; also available is a dubbed English track in DD 5.1, plus subtitles in English, French or Spanish. The English subtitles are less than completely satisfactory, not always synching well with the action on-screen, which can be occasionally distracting. Extras include a featurette on Eric Serra's soundtrack featuring new interviews with some of the principals; a nice 20-minute "making-of" featurette; a lame "Programming Nikita" interactive map that offers quick clips from the movie for no good reason; the theatrical trailer; movie-poster stills; and a fairly unimpressive Easter egg. Keep-case.