Why Nikita?

Maggie Q as Nikita

Maggie Q as Nikita

There have been several incarnations of Nikita and I’ve seen them all.

The original movie Nikita came out in 1990. It was directed by Luc Besson and released in the US as La Femme Nikita. If Luc Besson ever went on Mastermind, his specialist subject would be ‘Style over Substance’. I must have seen it as a video rental back in the day. It’s a fine movie with a great central performance from Anne Parillaud.

In 1993, they remade the movie in the US with Bridget Fonda and called it Point of No Return. But there was really no point to Point of No Return. The remake had none of the chic sense of danger, none of the emotional intensity and in place of Jean-Hugues Anglade there was charisma sinkhole, Dermot Mulroney. It is not a good movie.

In 1997, the franchise moved to TV. I’ve seen more episodes of this show than I care to admit. None of them made sense. In fact, there was very little about the entire show that made sense. Given that it was made in Canada and starred an Australian, there is no reason to have called the show La Femme Nikita. Nor was there any reason to give the male lead a comedy French accent. It’s all very odd.

In each of the movies, Nikita kills a cop and is sentenced to death. In the first TV show, Nikita is innocent which kind of makes the redemption-through-assassination angle moot.

La Femme Nikita was a silly TV show. I’ve watched a lot of silly TV shows. La Femme Nikita was particularly silly.

Now they have relaunched the brand once again with another TV show, this time simply called Nikita. It stars Maggie Q as Nikita. Nikita has gone rogue. She’s trying to bring down the government organization that trained her.

I like new shows. I’m willing to give almost anything a shot. I tried to like this. I failed.

Nikita is desperately bad. Nikita is a rogue agent going up against a shady government organization willing to kill to protect its secrets. It’s gritty. It’s nasty. It has to get Maggie Q down to her underwear early and often or the advertisers will bail.

The Maggie Q-clothing dilemma is resolved in less than five minutes with a dream sequence which may or may not be a flashback. Either way it happens inside Nikita’s head and the entire scene lingers over Maggie Q in a tight fitting, red one-piece as she completes a kill with her bare hands, takes out a body guard with some handy cutlery and fails to get away clean. It’s silly and lascivious and it made me feel dirty.

You can watch it here:

Don’t get over-excited. Nikita goes to see her former foster father who may have had a more hands-on approach to parenting than is desirable. We find out some of her back story. In this incarnation they told her she killed a cop but she was too high to remember properly. Way to change up a back story!

We learn that Nikita was her real name before she was recruited. That’s not very clever. If you have an unusual name and happen to get recruited as an invincible assassin by a shady government organization, you should at least expect to get a new name out of it. Nikita is so… memorable. But then this shady government organization is about the least discreet of any shady government organization ever seen.

At the drop of a hat teams of shady government gunmen swarm into public cemetery toting automatic weapons. A shady government hitman slices up the bodyguards of a foreign dignitary in the corridor of a hotel. Teams of shady government henchmen blithely shoot up a charity fundraiser. Talk about hiding in plain sight. These guys won’t be happy until their killshots show up on YouTube.

So Nikita has vowed to bring down the the shady government organization known as ‘Division’. Division is headed by a really nasty man. The nasty man is played by Xander Berkeley, a fine and recognizable character actor. Berkeley has fun chewing up Division’s scenery. He says things like this:

I’m not going to let a piece of street trash slow down this operation. Not for one minute.

and this:

Nikita is our new priority target. Threat level six!

Berkeley would be very convincing as the big baddie apart from one important detail. His character, the head of Division, Nikita’s nemesis is called… Percy.

Percy is not a good name for a nemesis. It ruins key dialog like this:

Someone has to stop Percy.

and this:

If Percy goes down he has no problem taking everyone down with him.

People called Percy are destined to lack menace. It is impossible to maintain an air of menace when you answer your cellphone, “Percy!”. This show proves it.

I may stick around and watch another couple of episodes. There may be more dream sequence/flashbacks for me to review. Other than that, this is the first turkey of the new season. With a baddie called Percy.

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6 Responses to Why Nikita?

  1. JoeSchmoe says:

    Pretty sure Nikita was her real name in the original too. As for the person who hates one man army fiction, it’s kinda been a running theme since Ancient times, guys like Hercales, Achilles, Odyssus, Gilgamesh, etc It’s pretty absurd to compare a film like Blood Diamond that tries to be topical and semi-realistic vs. something like Die Hard. Then again said person was around for the 2nd James Bond so they’re probably ancient.

  2. C Dickins says:

    It gets worse – Percy is slang for a penis here in the UK. (but surely Danny Cannon would know this?)

    ‘If Percy goes down he has no problem taking everyone down with him.’

    Hmmm….

  3. Jehuda Saar says:

    The other thing Besson’s original Nikita managed to do, at least for me, was introduce me to the incomparable Jean Reno who portrayed “Victor, the Cleaner”. For the American remake they had to use Harvey Keitel to try and carry the weight of the role, and even that failed. Reno is simply that: incomparable. In fact Besson’s next project “Leon” was a vehicle for Reno to take the Victor character and make him the leading man.
    The other point is that this new Nikita is produced and the pilot is directed by Danny Cannon. Mr Cannon’s debut was a little but quite remarkable movie called “The Young Americans” (1993). What was special about that movie was that with a very small budget Mr Cannon was able to make a very good “looking” movie. I remember thinking that this young British director had a lot of style and I was looking forward to his future projects. It turns out that Mr Cannon found his niche in television, producing and directing a great many shows, but none that stand out as being exceptional. And the connection between these two points ? The Young Americans starred none other than Mr Harvey Keitel and was shot the same year as his turn in Point Of No Return.

    • guiltyfeat says:

      You mentioned a lot of great points there that I didn’t get to in my piece. First of all, Jean Reno was awesome. Secondly, the only bum note in my first viewing of Pulp Fiction was seeing Harvey Keitel reprise his role as the cleaner. I guess real movie fans have always been able to identify where Tarantino is borrowing his ideas from , but this was the first “homage” that jumped out at me.

      I actually went to see The Young Americans at the cinema. Sadly, the best thing about it, in my opinion, was the theme song — “Play Dead” by Bjork and David Arnold. The main reason Danny Cannon ended up in TV is because his next theatrical movie was Stallone’s Judge Dredd. Cannon might have disappeared forever from the face of the planet had he not stumbled into producing a little franchise called C.S.I.

  4. Paul Roese says:

    more support for my contention that the culture is running out of gas. all that is offered for the most part are tired old artifacts repackaged to make them seem New! i was completely tired of the whole one person army bit after the second James Bond film. same with all the “Elite Forces ” bullshit. Iraq didn’t fall to 5 guys from the Seals or Delta force. would that it were true. we could pull all our troops out and just drop Bond, Nikita or one of their clones in Afghanistan and the mess would be cleaned right up. as depressing as they were films like the Lord of War, Blood Diamonds or Munich are at least clear eyed about the problems and complexities in international relations.

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