La Femme Nikita – French Fried week

There are quite a number of French films available on instant Netflix. We will be featuring some of them this week. La Femme Nikita is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: La Femme Nikita (1990) – Rated R.

“Internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson delivers the action-packed story of Nikita (Anne Parillaud), a ruthless street junkie whose killer instincts could make her the perfect weapon, in this French film that was remade as Point of No Return in the U.S. Recruited against her will into a secret government organization, Nikita is broken and transformed into a sexy, sophisticated “lethal weapon.””

“And suppose I refuse?” – “Aisle seven. number 30.”

First I have to say that it is quite bizarre that a film called “Nikita” in France would be called “La Femme Nikita” in English. Instead of using the same title, you add “The Woman” in front of it? Of course La Femme sounds so much cooler than The Woman.

Second “Crayone” does not translate as “May I write it?” Although I do like that “chewing gum” is apparently colloquial enough to be used in the French as well. Also “See you later” (in English) is translated as “See You later”.

Both La Femme Nikita and the American remake Point of No Return are currently available on instant Netflix.

Nikita here is a completely unrepentant drugged-out murderous thug and that is before her transformation into an elite assassin. Nikita is played by the wonderful Anne Parillaud. In Point of No Return, she is renamed Maggie and played by Bridget Fonda.

Tcheky Karyo plays Bob, the handler. He does a convincing job of playing a consummate professional who is also in love with Nikita. He conveys a sense of heartbreak that he must always maintain a professional relationship with her. The scene where he gets a kiss is very good. His role is capably played by Gabriel Byrne in Point of No Return.

Nikita is also trained by Amande (played by famous French actress Jeanne Moreau). In Point of No Return, Anne Bancroft plays Amanda adding a touch of class to that version. As you can see both versions have good actors.

Luc Besson does a very good job of directing La Femme Nikita . He goes more for substance than style. There are several scenes that pack a real punch but most are in the last act so I will not spoil them.

There is more emotional depth and complexity in the French version (not surprisingly). The American version also tones down the beginning to make Nikita/Maggie more appealing – it actually just makes her less believable. I did think the setpieces were actually better in the American version.

I recommend watching La Femme Nikita. It is the better of the two films. If you cannot stand reading subtitles or just have a yen for Bridget Fonda/Gabriel Byrne/Anne Bancroft then watch Point of No Return.

Canada later made a series of La Femme Nikita with Peta Wilson in the starring role. I have not seen it but it is available on DVD through Netflix.

People Watch: Jean Reno has a brief but very memorable role as Victor Nettoyeur (the Cleaner). This role is played by Harvey Keitel in Point of No Return.

The Crimson Rivers – French Fried week

There are quite a number of French films available on instant Netflix. We will be featuring some of them this week. The Crimson Rivers is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: The Crimson Rivers (2000) – Rated R for adult content, brief nudity, graphic language and graphic violence.

“A pair of French investigators working on seemingly unconnected cases — a grisly ritual killing in an insular university town and a graveyard desecration that occurred 150 miles away — join forces when their clues ultimately dovetail. Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel play the mismatched sleuths whose paths converge, and the icy French Alps serve as the eerie backdrop for this atmospheric thriller from director Mathieu Kassovitz.”

“You are here for the desecration. Follow me.”

Mathieu Kassovitz had Jean-Christophe Grange adapt his (Grange) own novel for the screen. It is a very interesting whydunit set in a mountainous region of France.

The outdoor cinematography here is gorgeous. The nature shots are spectacular including long shots of a superb rockface waterfall and helicopter tracking shots of glaciers high atop the mountains. The scene where Pierre and Fanny are climbing down into an ice crevasse is breathtaking.

Almost as fascinating to look at are some superb shots of architecture particularly some elegant stone work.

The English translation of this film is very troublesome. There are whole sections of dialogue that are clearly not translated at all. It is as if the transcriptionist was deciding which bits were important to read and which were extraneous detail.

Jean Reno is always excellent in my opinion. Heck I even enjoyed him in the American Godzilla remake (even though the film was not good). Vincent Cassel is a bundle of energy as the other cop, Max. Nadia Fares is the glaciologist Fanny Fereira.

With the exception of the subtitle issue, this film is very similar in nature to The Da Vinci Code.

I enjoyed the film and do give it a watch recommendation but with reservations. The translation is very frustrating – I imagine that if you understand French this is much more enjoyable.

If you really enjoy this film then stick Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse in your DVD queue.

People Watch: Look for director Mathieu Kassovitz in a cameo as a hooded killer attacking Pierre.

Ronin – Robert De Niro week

This week I’d like to celebrate one of our great American actors – Robert De Niro. Netflix has a slew of instant movies featuring De Niro including Ronin.

Ronin

WATCH: Ronin (1998) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“Director John Frankenheimer helmed this action thriller at full throttle. A briefcase with undisclosed contents — sought by Irish terrorists and the Russian mob — makes its way into criminals’ hands. An Irish liaison (Natascha McElhone) assembles a squad of mercenaries, or ronin, charged with the thorny task of recovering the case. But the team, led by an ex-CIA agent (Robert De Niro), mistrusts one another. Can they accomplish their mission?”

“You’re scared!” – “Of course I’m scared. You think I’m reluctant because I’m happy?”

Wow! I’d say that they don’t make action thrillers like this any more but the French still do (Taken is marvelous). Ronin is an exceptional thriller with REAL car chases. There are two very good car chases and one AMAZING car chase (Formula 1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier was one of the drivers) in this film. No green screen, only practical effects, no spastic jump cuts, no inappropriately sped-up photography – this movie is a real throwback.

Director John Frankenheimer crafts a marvelous movie here. He strikes a good balance between action, acting and exposition. He was responsible for a slew of classic 60s and 70s thrillers including The Manchurian Candidate, Black Sunday, The Train and Seven Days in May. It is sad to say that he directed only one more feature film after this one – the execrable Reindeer Games.

The cast is wonderful. Robert De Niro dynamically plays an incredibly competent freelance operative and you can’t help but take him seriously through the whole film. Jean Reno does a good job of underplaying here and complements De Niro well. Natascha McElhone plays a very strong female – thankfully not your standard damsel in distress. The rest of the ensemble cast (Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgard, and Skipp Sudduth) is excellent as are Michael Lonsdale and Jonathan Pryce in smaller roles.

Ronin is excellent and I highly recommend it if you enjoy an action thriller with some intelligence, good acting and character development.

People Watch: Yes that really is Olympic star Katarina Witt as Natacha.