La Femme Nikita: John Badham’s Remake of Luc Besson’s 1990 Cukt Movie

Warner’s remake of the French art-house cult item, La Femme Nikita, is a trashy picture lacking meaning, substance, or soul.

As a director, John Badham almost slavishly follows Luc Besson’s 1990 movie, though as in the case of “Sommersby” (another unsuccessful remake of a French film, “The Return of Martin Guerre”), the original is far superior to its American reincarnation.

Luc Besson’s glossy thriller concerns the transformation of a sociopathic punk into an enigmatic and alluring undercover government agent under the guidance of a master spy (a male, of course).   Her training in a high-tech compound takes years, but in the end, she emerges as a professional spy, capable of the riskiest missions.

The iconc Jeanne Moreau shows up later on in the proceedings in a preposterous cameo, playing a sophisticated woman who trains Nikita in te art of feminity.

The movie became an international arthouse hit, catapulting its star, the beautiful Anne Parillaud, into major stardom.

As a fantasy, the French film is just as mechanical and silly as the American remake, but it is also cooler, more ironic, amd more seductive.  The French picture at least contains some moral ambiguities, greater personality shadings.

Luc Besson is a stylist filmmaker who places greater emphasis on decor, color filters, camera angles, and startling frames than on interesting or credible narratives and in-depth characterizations.  You may recall his 1985  film “Subway,” or his 1988 underwater epic, “The Big Blue,” films that display Besson’s exhilarating visual style, which compensates partially for their lack of substance.