By Ty Burr
Updated August 27, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Despite its subtitles and Paris setting, La Femme Nikita was a Hollywood action flick waiting to happen. The wait wasn’t long, either — this year saw the appearance of Point of No Return, a big-budget American remake starring Bridget Fonda as the postpunk Eliza Doolittle who gets made over into a government assassin, only to be torn between her mentor (Gabriel Byrne) and her unsuspecting beau (Dermot Mulroney). That the new version photocopies the original nearly shot for shot while only rarely capturing its sleek, shallow charisma only proves that — ça va — some things can’t be translated.

Perhaps it’s a case of directorial mismatching. Nikita was written and filmed by Luc Besson, a French ciné-brat whose movies (The Big Blue, Le Dernier Combat) are triumphs of gorgeous, nihilistic imagery. The kid’s all style, so why would Point of No Return‘s producers hire John Badham, a proficient journeyman director with minimal style? Badham is reduced to aping another man’s visuals, and the result hollow.

Here’s what Point has that Nikita doesn’t: bigger explosions, smaller performances. Nikita‘s Anne Parillaud played the title character as a feral animal only barely tamed into a methodical killer — she gave the role the needed comic-book pizzazz. Fonda, by contrast, is intriguingly self-contained, but her tautness makes you realize what an empty cipher the character was in the first place. The whole movie is marked by that killing caution. It’s a professional hit all right, but not in the way its makers intended. B-

La Femme Nikita

  • Movie
  • R
  • 115 minutes
  • Luc Besson