In this Americanized remake of Luc Besson's 1991 cult hit LA FEMME NIKITA, Bridget Fonda takes on Anne Parillaud's role as a street junkie turned undercover government assassin.
After killing a policeman during a drug store robbery, Maggie (Fonda) is tried, convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection. After undergoing what appears to be death and burial, she awakens in a secret government high-tech training facility. There she is told by Bob (Gabriel Byrne)
that she can either undergo training and carry out covert assassinations for the state, or be put six feet under for real. Naturally, Maggie chooses door number two. She remains tough and funky, however, resisting all attempts to refine her until Bob gives her a final ultimatum to take a bullet in
the brain or shape up. It's door number two again as Maggie starts shaving her underarms, wearing dresses and eating with utensils instead of her hands.
Bob rewards her with a dinner date that turns into her final test. Before the appetizers come, Maggie is given a gun, three minutes to kill another restaurant patron and a false escape route to test her mettle. She passes and Bob sets her up with cash, documents and a car in Venice, California,
to await her next mission, during which time she meets and falls in love with photographer J.P. (Dermot Mulroney). Maggie continues to answer Bob's summonses, but with more reluctance each time, until she finds herself unable to murder a target. After a mission is botched, a backup agent (Harvey
Keitel) is assigned to salvage the operation and kill her. Maggie kills him and ditches the program completely. Rather than pursue her, Bob reports her killed in the mission and allows her to escape.
John Badham, director of similarly slick but empty entertainments from BLUE THUNDER to BIRD ON A WIRE, makes what seem to be merely cosmetic changes to Besson's original scenario. The action now takes place in the present instead of in some ill-defined near-future. The film also makes its main
character's femininity more of an issue than it was in the original. These relatively minor changes, though, manage to meticulously rob the story of much of what made it interesting.
Firstly, the futuristic setting of NIKITA allowed it to take on allegorical overtones about the tendency of governments to brutalize their citizens. It also sidesteps the pesky issue of plausibility. Super-secret government agencies, if they exist, surely don't need to dragoon civilians to do
their dirty work, as shown here.
Secondly, making a lack of femininity Maggie's main character flaw in NO RETURN seems to imply that she wouldn't have killed a cop if she'd had a good man in her life. In NIKITA's future dystopia, Nikita is trained to use femininity as a weapon. Like Maggie, she is disarmed by a nice guy, but
she is finally redeemed in Besson's hip-cynical resolution by rediscovering her humanity amid a society that has become more heartless and vicious than she could ever be. By contrast, it's hard to care much for Maggie, who has a laughably hard time balancing her professional and domestic lives.
All she wants is to frolic on the beach and eat ravioli with her new-found, hunky boyfriend, while the government pays for her ocean-front apartment, car and chic outfits. But every time she's getting set to have great sex or go work on her tan, she gets a call from her pesky controller, sending
her off to do nasty things like blow up hotels or assassinate foreign big-wigs. What's a girl to do?
POINT OF NO RETURN remains entertaining, mainly thanks to Fonda. One of the sleekest and smartest of the young stars of the 90s, she makes a highly watchable action hero in a genre usually dominated by muscle-bound men. The film took in a respectable, if unexceptional, $28 million at the box
office, and so presumably pushes at least some of the right audience buttons. (Profanity, violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: In this Americanized remake of Luc Besson's 1991 cult hit LA FEMME NIKITA, Bridget Fonda takes on Anne Parillaud's role as a street junkie turned undercover government assassin. After killing a policeman during a drug store robbery, Maggie (Fonda) is tr… (more)