Nikita (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus calls in 'Jospehine' for a mission on another Besson Blu-ray disc.
Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is a drug addict who’s in with the wrong crowd and after a pharmacy robbery goes wrong for her acquaintances, Nikita finds herself with a gun to a police officer’s throat that she pulls without remorse.
Sentenced to life imprisonment, Nikita is drugged and assumes she is receiving a lethal injection only to wake up in a room and be greeted by a man from the government (Tchéky Karyo) offering her the chance to come work with his team.
Over the following years, Nikita is transformed from brash street punk to assassin and when finally let out of her training facility and out into the real world, Nikita gets on with her life awaiting the call with her mission codename 'Josephine'.
Pretty standard set up for this sort of movie right? But that’s where many of the similarities stop in Luc Besson’s other assassin movie. Nikita is the last film of Luc Besson’s that I’ve wanted to see for many-a-year but never got around to and I’m glad I’ve finally got to see what all the fuss was about.
Nikita is pretty much a breath of fresh air from start to finish. A story that’s been told a million times before, but with its own spin on things, and that spin feels a lot more believable and accessible than many in this genre, before or since the 1990 release.
Anne Parillaud plays Nikita with such a sense of broken realism. From her fantastic delivery of her name in the police station, through her retaliation in her self defence class, right up to her begging ‘The Cleaner’ (Jean Reno) to leave the scene of a mission gone wrong, she’s pretty amazing in this role. She’s vulnerable and full of attitude and somehow that doesn’t all get ironed out after she completes her training. Her character remains slightly odd throughout her transformation and even when she’s in assassin mode, she still manages to keep that air of vulnerability despite brandishing a sniper rifle or hand gun and when shit really kicks off, there’s a real feeling of using the skills she’s been taught adhoc as opposed to perfectly calculating her every move, Bond/Bourne style.
Even though this is all Parillaud’s movie, the main supporting role from Tchéky Karyo is one that can’t go without an honourable mention. The subtlety to his performance adds so much more than is expected from this sort of role. His affection for Nikita and the unspoken feeling of wanting her, countered with him also needing to do his job is pretty well played out and the connection between the two characters is well portrayed in their limited screen time together.
Luc Besson once again makes this feel more like a spiritual journey for his character, even without playing heavy on Nikita’s feelings about the crimes she’s committed or what she’s been through or indeed confirming what she actually wants in life. The movies style has a lot in common with anime storytelling and comes loaded with enough quirks to make it stand out amongst the crowd and despite feeling a little let down by the blunt ending, Nikita is still a movie I regret not having seen until now.
Despite being a bit heavy on the grain in the more shadowed scenes and the fairly light (yet noticeable) amount of dirt and scratches on the transfer, I’d probably go so far as to say that Nikita was the most consistent out of the Besson Blu-ray’s I’ve seen of late even if it never looks quite as glorious as The Big Blue does at its best.
Scenes are detailed and fairly sharp no matter the lighting source. Skin tones and textures are captured well and look fairly natural and when the transfer wants to show off, it does. The Venice scenes look great for example, with the sun bathed buildings as backdrop to Nikita and her fiancée travelling through on their taxi boat and the scene in the restaurant where Nikita makes her first hit is lavishly detailed on the restaurant’s decorated ceiling, as well as the shootout in the kitchens.
By today’s standards the transfer here falls a little sort, but generally Nikita does a pretty good job and has plenty enough going for it to warrant an upgrade.
Another Besson Collection title, another PCM 2.0 track. Nikita starts off with quite an impressive 2.0 experience within the shootout at the pharmacy. Guns sound unnatural in that late eighties/early nineties way but are spread nicely amongst the track and come with plenty of bass.
After that everything gets a little more subdued. Much of the movie is dialogue driven and many scenes are quiet because of it. The Serra score is placed well within the mix but the limitations here make this a fairly standard 2.0 affair that comes with no thrills and generally it can be said that there’s nothing too extraordinary about this track at all.
‘The Making of Nikita’ (20:37 SD) is a fairly typical making of but a fun one none the less. There are plenty of stories from all of the main cast and a few crew members and it turns out to be a nice bit of reminiscing about the project even if it’s over before it really finds its stride.
Separately and seemingly part of the same making of are ‘Karyo on Besson’, ‘The Bedroom’ , ‘Training Room’ and ‘Vanity Room’ all of which run around the thirty second mark and feature extremely short comments or collections of clips from certain elements of the movie.
‘The Sound Of Nikita’ (04:48 SD) once again feels like it just should have been part of the main making of and features composer, Eric Serra, and focuses on his input to the movie. Once again, I have to say that I’m not a massive fan of Serra’s scores, but some elements in Nikita worked pretty well.
Finally, wrapping up the features is the trailer (02:22 SD).
Despite being nearly twenty years old and sitting snugly in an area of film that is overflowing with many of the same set ups and themes, Nikita is packed with charm. This mainly comes down a fantastic lead performance from Anne Parillaud and Besson’s ability to make the human elements of his stories as enjoyable as his action plots.
The Blu-ray itself does a fairly pleasing job without showing off too much and even though the features are thin they were good while they lasted. So while this isn’t the best release Nikita fans could have hoped for, it should probably be considered an adequate one for now.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 14th September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo French
Extras: Making of Nikita, Karyo on Besson, The Sound of Nikita, The Bedroom ,Training Room, Vanity Fair, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Tcheky Karyo, Jean Reno
Genre: Action and Drama
Length: 117 minutes
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