Point of No Return

Luc Besson's 1990 French thriller La Femme Nikita, starring Anne Parillaud as the ultimate femme fatale, was wildly sexy, stylish and implausible. John Badham's Point of No Return, the unnecessary American remake starring Bridget Fonda, is merely implausible. As for wild, forget it. Playing Nikita, a junkie transformed from sociopath to assassin by a government agent, Bob (Tcheky Karyo), and from guttersnipe to lady by Bob's colleague Amande (the incomparable Jeanne Moreau), Parillaud managed to take on a dozen thugs while staying rock steady atop her sky-high heels. Playing Maggie, the cornfed Fonda has to kick off her heels on her first job, when she's asked to make a hit at a chic restaurant. Amande would be appalled.

There's no denying Fonda's apple-pie appeal — it shines through even in the early scenes, when she's supposed to be strung out. But acrobatic wholesomeness is hardly an acceptable substitute for Parillaud's hot-babe allure. This time Anne Bancroft does the glam make-over (she's no Moreau); Fonda emerges — mon Dieu! — like a tomboy in her big sister's wardrobe. Director Badham (Bird on a Wire) shows little flair for eroticism and, more surprisingly, flubs the action. Gabriel Byrne, looking glum as Bob, and Dermot Mulroney, looking dopey as Maggie's boyfriend, J.P., seem stranded. Only Harvey Keitel, as a sadist called the Cleaner, is truly chilling. It's not that Robert Getchell's script is any less crackbrained than Besson's. This kind of kink just works better with a French accent.

From The Archives Issue 517: January 14, 1988