Wednesday, April 27, 2016

At the Birth of the French New Wave Action Thriller, or Thoughts on Luc Besson’s Nikita

Anne Parillaud stars in Nikita (1990)
 Kinetic action filmmaker Luc Besson, director and producer of The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and The Transporter (2002), introduced his signature style with Nikita (1990), released in the US as La Femme Nikita (1990).  Nikita was one of the first big budget action movies with a female action hero.  French actress Anne Parillaud’s transformation from violent junkie street punk to violent chic supermodel hadn’t really been done before in the early 90’s, the simple act of flipping the gender dynamics was considered revolutionary.  Diving down a garbage chute being chased by a fireball shot by an RPG was a stunt usually reserved for Arnold, Sly and Jean-Claude before Nikita.  Xena, Warrior Princess came in 1995 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer arrived two years later in 1997, and those two ladies were on TV, not the big screen. 
The film is en Francais, so you’ll have to read subtitles but don’t let that put you off.  The first half of the movie is one long training montage as Nikita learns spycraft from French handler Tcheky Karyo, combat skills and also gets an advanced education in makeup and seduction by Jeanne Moreau.  The second half is a gloriously violent, Gaelic/Hong Kong action movie as Nikita, now a highly trained killer black ops agent is released into the wild.  The politics of her kills are never explained or elaborated upon, the audience simply accepts the premise that all governments have state-sponsored assassins.  Nikita becomes a French James Bond, a Jeanne Bond, if you will.
Anne Parillaud was married to Luc Besson at the time (he would leave her to marry Milla Jovavich), and there’s also a Jean Reno cameo where he plays the Cleaner, a variation on the role he would go on to play in Luc Besson’s Leon, or The Professional with a very young Natalie Portman in 1994.  The movie inspired an American shot for shot remake, Point of No Return (1993) starring Bridget Fonda, and 2 TV series.  Luc Besson went on to produce both The Transporter and Taken franchises, but with the box-office safety net of casting charismatic male action stars.

This is my 100th post, so I made a Nikita poster for you...

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.