Sometimes I like to recommend movies you may not know about… other times talk about the ones I loved the most, like the magnificent 1990 La Femme Nikita.
It all begins in the middle of the night in Paris, where young drug addict Nikita lives, surviving on edge by committing petty crimes to feed herself.
One night, along with her cronies, she robs a pharmacy, remaining the only one to survive before killing a policeman.
Considering the brutality of the crime, she is unceremoniously sentenced to death, but instead of carrying out the sentence, a mysterious government organization takes her into custody.
Nikita awakens in a secret facility, where she finds the mysterious and charming Bob making her a hard proposition: train to become a ruthless assassin on behalf of the state, or die for real this time.
Not being a difficult choice, the girl accepts and hones her combat and seduction skills to become a complete and lethal weapon.
Bob becomes her mentor and oversees her training, also having other feelings, until the girl is promoted and moves to a Parisian apartment where she begins a double life.
Apparently, she is an ordinary and innocent nurse, but as soon as Bob calls her on duty, she becomes an efficient killing machine.
In this new life, she meets Marco, a naive and kind man who quickly becomes her lover. With him, Nikita begins to long for an ordinary life, away from the lies and manipulation of her mentor, who reappears again under the false cover of being her uncle.
The girl knows well that each of her missions may be her last, but equally, by now, she can only get out of her agreement with the organization that trained her if she is smart enough to fool everyone.
A European heart with American rhythm
You can hardly find a filmmaker who can masterfully fuse the aesthetics of old Europe with American narrative energy like Luc Besson.
With his innovative and vibrant directing, he created a unique synergy between two cinematic worlds, often at complete opposites.
Among his most memorable movies, the best-loved and best-known are undoubtedly 1990’s La Femme Nikita and 1994’s The Professional, plus the colorful and imaginative sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element, which, however, had a more mixed reception among audiences and critics.
The characters who animate his stories are creatures with vulnerable humanity, nonetheless intriguing in their eccentricity.
They run in shadowy and dangerous environments, a criminal universe that parallels our everyday existence, similar to the atmosphere that permeates the John Wick saga.
Besson shows a particular fondness for female figures. His heroines are complex figures, strong and delicate at the same time, radiating a sensual and unforgettable charm that goes beyond the screen.
Yet despite his brilliant performance of Anne Parillaud as Nikita, it has remained a mystery why her career did not reach higher levels of fame in the global cinematic landscape.
Parillaud is, indeed, a performer with an unparalleled physical appeal, perfect for action flicks and blessed with solid acting skills that allow her to play roles of great emotional impact.
However, the actress was sidelined in less commercially successful productions, despite her unquestionable prowess, such as John Landis‘s hilarious horror Innocent Blood, where she was a charming vampire we all would love to bite us on the neck.
Instead, Besson’s name will be raised to the world’s highest level, and from here on, he can count on virtually unlimited budgets and production freedom to continue his career.
While I am glad for the director, doesn’t this seem like an injustice to poor Parillaud?
Three hearts and a gun
It is remarkable how many often remember La Femme Nikita as an iconic 1990 action movie. A closer look reveals, however, that there are surprisingly few adrenaline-pumping sequences compared to everything else.
What really stands out are the dialogues and interactions between the protagonists, which also outweigh the main plot, which, again, when examined thoroughly, turns out to be relatively minimal.
The emotional core is in the complicated love triangle between Nikita and the two men who play a crucial role in her life, Marco and Bob, with an intricate web of feelings where the narrative finds its fundamental driving force.
Indeed, the sensual and resolute Anne Parillaud is an entity of feminine strength, contrasting sharply with the ordinary man with whom she falls in love. In contrast, the character of Marco, embodied by the likable Jean-Hugues Anglade, is a humble supermarket clerk, a perfect example of ordinary, everyday life.
At the same time, Bob, played by Tchéky Karyo, appears as a cruel but charming figure who would seem more in line with Nikita’s character. However, while they are very similar and strongly attracted to each other, he represents a life that Nikita would like to leave behind.
What Nikita yearns for, in fact, is the peace of a life without violence. Just look at their first (and only) date, where amid intimacy, Bob coldly hands her a gun and a target to eliminate-a scene that is one of the most exciting and spectacular of the many hitman stories in film history.
Finally, we mention the brief but significant appearance of Jean Reno as Victor, the professional assassin; whose character anticipates the figure of Winston Wolf, played by Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction, with his impeccable coldness and precision in handling the most complicated situations in the criminal underworld.