For those who saw Luc Besson’s high-tech thriller Nikita, about a female criminal transformed into a government assassin, this soulless, efficiently slavish remake [of the 1990 French pic] is almost like watching it all over again.
But the premise remains a strong hook on which to peg a taut, straight-line action narrative. Sentenced to death for killing a cop in a robbery, a young drug-addicted punk (Bridget Fonda), here named Maggie, is given a chance to live, under the supervision of an agent named Bob (Gabriel Byrne). The elegant Amanda (Anne Bancroft) adds the feminine touch.
Having won her stripes, she is transferred from Washington to Venice, California, where she instantly seduces J.P. (Dermot Mulroney), the friendly young caretaker of her boardwalk apartment building. The nasty assignments keep coming, though, until her jobs get in the way of her pleasant personal life. Ending is a shade more upbeat and conventional than the French version.
Fonda acquits herself admirably in all departments. Byrne is low-key as Maggie’s lovestruck Pygmalion, and Mulroney endows Maggie’s beach-dwelling boyfriend with welcome humor and a comfortable naturalism. Most amusing turn comes from Harvey Keitel, who plays a ruthless hitman nicknamed the Cleaner as if pretending to be the Terminator.
Director John Badham offers no interpretation or distinctive p.o.v., but does get the requisite action up on the screen in a straightforward manner that’s a degree less stylized and poetic than the original.