One film, two versions: Nikita

By 1990, I had already seen and enjoyed two films by the French director, Luc Besson. ‘Subway’ (1985), and ‘The Big Blue’ (1988) had shown me that he had both talent and style in abundance. When I heard that he had released a new thriller, ‘Nikita’, I happily went off to the cinema to see it. That was fortuitous, as it became one of my favourite modern films, and stunned me with its inventiveness and quality. Anne Parillaud is outstanding in the tile role, as the truculent teenage girl living a life of drug use, recklessness, and crime, devoid of conscience. After a robbery goes badly wrong and she is facing a life behind bars, Nikita is kidnapped, her death faked, and she is trained to become an assassin for a secret government organisation.

The film excels in set pieces, there are numerous twists and turns in the story, and it has a magnificent supporting cast, including the legendary Jeanne Moreau, Jean Reno, and the wonderful Tchรฉky Karyo. Living a double life to cover her work as an assassin, Nikita is always emotionally torn, and this adds to the tension of course. But above all, Anne Parillaud’s superb performance is the glue that holds this film together, from the opening scene, to the end credits. Highly recommended.

Then they decided to remake it, in America. Oh dear.

First of all, they changed the title. It became ‘The Assassin’ (1993), though it was also confusingly known as ‘The Point Of No Return’, in some releases. Bridget Fonda took on the role of Nikita, now called ‘Maggie’, and the solid Gabriel Byrne was now ‘Uncle Bob’, along with support from Harvey Keitel, Anne Bancroft, and Miguel Ferrer. It was all there for the taking, they just had to leave well enough alone, and get on with a straight remake. I was seduced by the cast, and bought the film on VHS. Despite Fonda and Byrne giving it their best shots, they changed just enough of the story to make it feel far-fetched. The script felt more like a TV movie, and it lost a lot of the ‘dark feel’ of the original too. It also has to be said, that at the time anyway, Bridget wasn’t a patch on Anne Parillaud. This was a fine example of an unnecessary and completely pointless remake, only three years after Besson’s exciting original.

Stick with the French film, tolerate the subtitles. You will be glad you did, believe me.

26 thoughts on “One film, two versions: Nikita

  1. The original is one of my favorite films. I think it is the perfect thriller/action movie, right up there with, shoot, even better than, Die Hard.
    That said, I actually like Point of No Return. In fact, I like it a lot. Of course it’s not nearly as good as the La Femme, but I think Bridget Fonda is a very underrated actor and Anne Bancroft is fantastic. But your right, Point of No Return is an unnecessary American movie conceit. I hate it when we do that.
    By the way, I was trying to find your post on Peeping Tom…maybe you could give me the link…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Bancroft, but the remake was just pointless for me.
      Here is my short review of Peeping Tom, from a series on directors.
      My other praise for the film was on Cindy’s L13FC, which I think you saw.
      I was sure I had a stand-alone post on my blog, but I can’t find it either. I fear I may have inadvertently deleted it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the 1990 original; the 1993 remake not so much. Speaking of Anne Parillaud, she was the lead in John Landis vampire themed horror comedy two years later in 1992 entitled Innocent Blood and she was every bit as gorgeous in that film as she was in Nikita. Anyway, keep up the great work as always ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never seen either film (yes I know, shame on me), but of course I have heard of them and the original has been on my to watch list for ages now. That said I agree with Kim: the television series with Maggie Q is awesome and was seriously cool. As always wonderful post Pete, have a great sunday ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like Beeson as well….I thought %th Element was clever……I have not seen the movie I have watched the series which leaves much to desire….I will put it on my to watch list….thanx chuq

    Oops! I was suppose to go the “redflag”…..LOL chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean Reno is ‘The Cleaner’, Karo is ‘Uncle Bob’, it really is worth a watch, FR.
      So many later films borrowed elements of it, including a few from Tarantino and John Woo.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pete, I’ve had “Nikita” on DVD for a long time, and also saw it on the big screen. The film here was marketed as “La Femme Nikita,” for some reason. It’s a great film, and I later purchased “Innocent Blood,” which is a whole lot of fun to watch. In that one, Anne Parillaud is a reluctant (but hungry) vampire (“Never play with the food.”). I have seen the remake of “Nikita,” and thought it compared poorly to the original. I’m also aware that there was a “La Femme Nikita” TV series, and I think I watched a few episodes before dismissing it.

    I might point out that Jean-Hugues Anglade stars in “Nikita,” and was already well known due to “37ยฐ2 le matin” (“Betty Blue”), a film I originally purchased on VHS (theatrical version), and later on DVD (the 185 minute version). The long version is even more faithful to Philippe Djian’s novel, which I’ve read in French. You might recall that Jean-Hugues Anglade was on “The 15:17 to Paris”โ€”in real life, not in the Eastwood filmโ€”and that “he suffered a minor injury from broken glass that occurred while he was activating the alarm.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I managed to find a copy of the original a couple of months ago, your recommendation in the back of my mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Parts of it reminded me of more modern films so it influence must be far reaching.
    Thanks for the heads-up on the remake, one I wont bother searching for.

    Liked by 1 person

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