Review: ‘La Femme Nikita’

La Femme Nikita (Mon. (13), 10-11 p.m., USA) Filmed in Montreal by Fireworks Entertainment Prods. Executive producer, Jay Firestone; producer, Jamie Paul Rock; director, Jon Cassar; script, Cyrus Nowrasteh, based on characters created for the film "La Femme Nikita"; camera, Danny Nowak; editor, David B. Thompson; production designer, Rocco Mattco; art director, Terry Wareham; music, Sean Callery (theme, Mark Snow); casting, Deirdre Bowen. Cast: Peta Wilson, Roy Dupuis, Don Francks, Eugene Robert Glazer, Alberta Watson, Anias Grauofsky, Ric Reid, Robbie Rox, Kurtys Kidd, James Vezina, Kevin Connelly, Tony Curtis Blondell, Pierre Trudel. Sharp, sexy, innovative and witty French film becomes dull, witless, shot-in-Montreal cable series in USA's "La Femme Nikita." What was stylish in original version here becomes muddy and confusing attempt at MTV cutting and loud electronic soundtrack, and title may leave many USA watchers, accustomed to more conventional (and arguably superior) "Renegade," "Silk Stalkings" and "The Big Easy," confused. Lead character of writer-director Luc Besson's 1990 thriller, "Nikita" (original French title) was a street urchin, drug addict and killer captured and turned into a professional killer by a supersecret spy agency. Property 1991's biggest foreign-language release in the U.S. subsequently was remade, sometimes almost shot-by-shot, by John Badham as 1993's "Point of No Return" featuring Bridget Fonda in role originated by Annie Paillaud. Newest version cleans up "Nikita" character from the beginning; here, she's framed and falsely accused of murder in order to drag her into the mysterious Section One agency. Otherwise, first two-thirds of premiere episode is a gloss of Besson's 117-minute feature, again in some places (like the restaurant kitchen chase) a scene-by-scene re-creation; script then departs into a further "adventure" that leads away from film story and into what promises to be a series of escapades for punky killer Nikita. Several lead roles parallel those of film, with Roy Dupuis as her trainer, Michael (Bob in the original); Alberta Watson as Madeline (Amande, played by Jeanne Moreau in Besson's version) , Section One's resident psychologist. Don Francks plays Walter, a weapons expert that's so close to the Q character in James Bond films that Francks bears some physical resemblance to Desmond Llewellen, who continues to play in the Bond pictures. None is painted very sympathetic in the premiere episode (even less so in films), so it's up to Peta Wilson to carry that responsibility, as Nikita. In the first episode, she's more confused than anything else, though the producers' decision to make her reluctant to actually kill probably is a good idea. Not that she doesn't kill when forced to. After she's cleaned up for re-entrance into Real Life (where she'll lurk, waiting for her next assignment), Wilson's Nikita remains more punkish than Paillaud's, probably an effort to appear au courant; the same notion that finds most of the Section One staff dressed in black. The "twisted little Dutch girl" look (long blond braids, leather jacket) that Nikita effects in one sequence is something to see, though. It's hard to tell where Section One is, though they're apparently good guys or as "good" as such a sinister-acting bunch of dirty-tricks and wet-work experts can be (at one point, it's made clear, at least, that they aren't the CIA). Several cast members speak with Canadian accents, and Wilson is Aussie. Locations are nondescript, with darkish production design and lighting suggestive of some unnamed European country. Todd Everett

La Femme Nikita (Mon. (13), 10-11 p.m., USA) Filmed in Montreal by Fireworks Entertainment Prods. Executive producer, Jay Firestone; producer, Jamie Paul Rock; director, Jon Cassar; script, Cyrus Nowrasteh, based on characters created for the film “La Femme Nikita”; camera, Danny Nowak; editor, David B. Thompson; production designer, Rocco Mattco; art director, Terry Wareham; music, Sean Callery (theme, Mark Snow); casting, Deirdre Bowen. Cast: Peta Wilson, Roy Dupuis, Don Francks, Eugene Robert Glazer, Alberta Watson, Anias Grauofsky, Ric Reid, Robbie Rox, Kurtys Kidd, James Vezina, Kevin Connelly, Tony Curtis Blondell, Pierre Trudel. Sharp, sexy, innovative and witty French film becomes dull, witless, shot-in-Montreal cable series in USA’s “La Femme Nikita.” What was stylish in original version here becomes muddy and confusing attempt at MTV cutting and loud electronic soundtrack, and title may leave many USA watchers, accustomed to more conventional (and arguably superior) “Renegade,” “Silk Stalkings” and “The Big Easy,” confused. Lead character of writer-director Luc Besson’s 1990 thriller, “Nikita” (original French title) was a street urchin, drug addict and killer captured and turned into a professional killer by a supersecret spy agency. Property 1991’s biggest foreign-language release in the U.S. subsequently was remade, sometimes almost shot-by-shot, by John Badham as 1993’s “Point of No Return” featuring Bridget Fonda in role originated by Annie Paillaud. Newest version cleans up “Nikita” character from the beginning; here, she’s framed and falsely accused of murder in order to drag her into the mysterious Section One agency. Otherwise, first two-thirds of premiere episode is a gloss of Besson’s 117-minute feature, again in some places (like the restaurant kitchen chase) a scene-by-scene re-creation; script then departs into a further “adventure” that leads away from film story and into what promises to be a series of escapades for punky killer Nikita. Several lead roles parallel those of film, with Roy Dupuis as her trainer, Michael (Bob in the original); Alberta Watson as Madeline (Amande, played by Jeanne Moreau in Besson’s version) , Section One’s resident psychologist. Don Francks plays Walter, a weapons expert that’s so close to the Q character in James Bond films that Francks bears some physical resemblance to Desmond Llewellen, who continues to play in the Bond pictures. None is painted very sympathetic in the premiere episode (even less so in films), so it’s up to Peta Wilson to carry that responsibility, as Nikita. In the first episode, she’s more confused than anything else, though the producers’ decision to make her reluctant to actually kill probably is a good idea. Not that she doesn’t kill when forced to. After she’s cleaned up for re-entrance into Real Life (where she’ll lurk, waiting for her next assignment), Wilson’s Nikita remains more punkish than Paillaud’s, probably an effort to appear au courant; the same notion that finds most of the Section One staff dressed in black. The “twisted little Dutch girl” look (long blond braids, leather jacket) that Nikita effects in one sequence is something to see, though. It’s hard to tell where Section One is, though they’re apparently good guys or as “good” as such a sinister-acting bunch of dirty-tricks and wet-work experts can be (at one point, it’s made clear, at least, that they aren’t the CIA). Several cast members speak with Canadian accents, and Wilson is Aussie. Locations are nondescript, with darkish production design and lighting suggestive of some unnamed European country. Todd Everett

La Femme Nikita

Mon. (13), 10-11 p.m., USA

Production

Filmed in Montreal by Fireworks Entertainment Prods. Executive producer, Jay Firestone; producer, Jamie Paul Rock; director, Jon Cassar; script, Cyrus Nowrasteh, based on characters created for the film "La Femme Nikita";

Crew

Camera, Danny Nowak; editor, David B. Thompson; production designer, Rocco Mattco; art director, Terry Wareham; music, Sean Callery (theme, Mark Snow); casting, Deirdre Bowen.

Cast

Cast: Peta Wilson, Roy Dupuis, Don Francks, Eugene Robert Glazer, Alberta Watson, Anias Grauofsky, Ric Reid, Robbie Rox, Kurtys Kidd, James Vezina, Kevin Connelly, Tony Curtis Blondell, Pierre Trudel.
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