The obligatory gringo remake of Luc Besson's 1990 French actioner, La Femme Nikita, 1993's Point of No Return, manages the hat trick of being slavishly true to the original, not as good, and much better in spots.
Bridget Fonda is Maggie, a drugged-out waste case who murders a cop during a bungled drug store robbery, is sentenced to death and executed - unlike the real world, this doesn't happen 20 years later after 500 appeals - only to wake up in the clutches of an unnamed and unexplained organization who offer her a deal: be trained to be an assassin or end up in the empty grave the world thinks she's already in.
The plot tracks exactly the same as the original with her being a rebellious brat at first; eventually being convinced that the only way to stay alive is to get with the program; passing her final exam with a restaurant hit and subsequent escape that is almost a shot-for-shot copy; being set up in a cover identity that leads her to fall in love with a civilian, only to have her work intrude with missions. Hijinks ensue.
The weakness of this version comes from the sketchy details about just about everything. How did she end up as she did? When cleaned up, how does she feel about having killed that cop? How does the outfit that spends a couple of years training these lost people in the points of foreign languages and fine dining somehow not cover basic grocery shopping? Worse, how did she never learn at any point in her life? I don't know how to cook and I can shop better than Maggie can; she acts like she was raised by hamsters in a remote jungle and had never set foot in a supermarket. Why are she and her new love always fighting about her past when he's already set up house with her. Dude, if you're banging the cute girl pretty much from the jump without asking her backstory, are you really entitled to yell at her?
What's better is the third act Point of No Return has created, involving Maggie doubling an arms dealer's bitchy girlfriend to sneak into his hillside mansion accompanied by an ultra-creepy Harvey Keitel. La Femme Nikita's third act never felt right to me with Anne Parillaud poorly dressing as a man to sneak into an embassy helped by Jean Reno, who'd go on to star for Besson in Leon: The Professional.
Bridget Fonda is somewhat adrift do to the uneven script which doesn't really provide Maggie with motivation, so Bridget has to do most of the lifting with variable success. When she's on, she's good, but other times it feels like director John Badham didn't know what to do with her and her apple pie looks. Dermot Mulroney as the boho photographer she falls for is also thin.
I hadn't see Point of No Return in ages, but because the Nikita legend has been told and retold several times - the latest being a TV series with rather interesting take starring Maggie Q; I tried watching the Peta Wilson version and couldn't warm to it at all - that I hadn't forgotten much beyond a little detail here or there. I didn't like it as much as I remembered, but that's because I'm pickier in my old age.
The Blu-ray, part of a cool bargain triple-pack with similar kickass chick flocks, Domino and The Long Kiss Goodnight ($15 at Costco and Walmart), is nothing special. The picture is a bit flat and muted looking, like an above-average DVD, and dark areas tend to be muddy. As a midline catalog title, Warner Bros. didn't give it much of a buff job. Audio was meh and the only extra is the trailer.
Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.