La Femme Nikita UHD Review

4 Stars Luc Besson’s breakout film
La Femme Nikita 4K UHD Review

Luc Besson’s breakout film La Femme Nikita arrives on 4K Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

La Femme Nikita (1990)
Released: 01 Apr 1991
Rated: R
Runtime: 117 min
Director: Luc Besson
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Marc Duret, Patrick Fontana
Writer(s): Luc Besson
Plot: Convicted felon Nikita isn't going to jail; she's given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 56

Disc Information
Studio: Sony
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DTS, French 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: UHD
Case Type: UHD steelbook
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 06/11/2024
MSRP: $45.99

The Production: 4/5

Part Pygmalion and part A Clockwork Orange, Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita (or simply Nikita as the title card implies) is an intriguing character study and action piece. Nikita (Anne Parillaud) and her punk friends attempt a burglary at a pharmacy owned by her boyfriend Rico’s (Marc Duret) father, hoping to score a fix for their drug addiction. The burglary goes badly when the police arrive, killing everyone in the gang except Nikita, who kills one of the officers before being captured. Nikita is tried and convicted for the murder of the officers killed in the burglary, sentenced to life in prison. However, a secret government agency sees something in Nikita and arranges to fake her death (in a rather confusing plot point, as both Nikita and the audience at first assumes her sentence had been changed to death due to her outburst in the courtroom at the sentencing hearing). Nikita awakens in a white room, greeted by “Bob” (Tcheky Karyo), who makes her an offer she can’t refuse – agree to be trained as an assassin or wind up buried in her empty grave. Nikita is reluctant to cooperate at first, disrespecting her trainers every chance she gets (which delights Bob somewhat), but when Bob’s boss has had enough, he gives Bob two weeks to get Nikita to turn around or be executed. Nikita quickly learns computer skills, hand to hand combat, marksmanship, as well as grace and beauty (which seems to tame the wild barely 20 year old Nikita). She is given a final test in a real life situation, and then graduates as a full-fledged assassin. That is, until she meets Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade) at a supermarket and the two soon fall in love. It is while on vacation together that Nikita is called into action for her first mission, which begins to complicate Nikita’s two lives, and eventually leads to the agency to send in “The Cleaner” (Jean Reno) to resolve a mission that goes badly.

La Femme Nikita was the first foreign language film I had ever paid to see in a theater (which happened to be my only visit to the old Balboa Theater in Newport Beach, California that closed almost eight months later and remains closed despite numerous attempts to restore and reopen it). I was a bit of a snob when it came to movies when this film was released here in the US in 1991, refusing to watch a film in anything other than English. Now that was likely due to the fact that I had fallen asleep during many of the foreign language films shown during the film appreciation class I took at Temple University back in 1985. The word of mouth on Nikita was strong, and that is what convinced me to seek it out, and was I pleasantly surprised. Here was a movie, in French with English subtitles, that wasn’t artsy or a costume drama, that had me glued to the screen for nearly its entire running time, and definitely opened my eyes to French cinema (at least the films of Luc Besson). This was Luc Besson’s breakout film, at least internationally (Subway and The Big Blue were modest hits outside of France). His next film, Leon: The Professional was his first English language film, followed by the very successful The Fifth Element. Also, this film spawned an American remake (Point of No Return directed by John Badham and starring Bridget Fonda) and two television series – La Femme Nikita created by Joel Surnow (24) and starring Peta Wilson followed by Nikita which was a quasi-sequel to the previous series and starred Maggie Q and Shane West.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

La Femme Nikita has had something of a spotty history on home video, at least until the rights were diverted to Sony (who put out a pretty good and currently out of print Blu-ray back in 2008, or so I hear). Not much is known of what comprises this 2160p HEVC encode, but I would guess that this is from a fairly new 4K digital intermediate, possibly provided to Sony by original French studio Gaumont. This encode includes both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range, and is free of any noticeable blemishes. Contrast is excellent, with deep blacks and strong shadow detail (particularly in the opening shots taken at night). Highlights are bright but never appear blown out. Colors are strong and naturalistic, never appearing over saturated. This is a very film-like image, looking way better than it possibly did in theaters back in 1991. Unfortunately, a Blu-ray version is not included with this release and as far as I know no new Blu-ray has been announced.

Audio: 4.5/5

Default audio on this disc is French 5.1 in lossless DTS-HD MA, and has a very modern sound to it, with good surround presence and use of LFE. I could say that dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, but I do not speak or understand French. Sony has also included an English dub in 5.1 DTS-HD MA and a French 2.0 stereo track in DTS-HD MA (I assume it could be the original Dolby Stereo matrixed surround theatrical mix).

Special Features: 0/5

La Femme Nikita comes packaged in an attractive steelbook case replicating one of the original poster designs, but that is all that is included in this release. No trailer, not even a digital code (this is a Sony Pictures Classics release, which typically do not include digital copy codes).

Overall: 4/5

Long out of print on Blu-ray, Sony’s new 4K release of La Femme Nikita is a very welcome addition to any action film fan’s library.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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titch

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Kevin Oppegaard
Looking forward to upgrading from the blu-ray. What might have passed for stellar video 16 years ago, won't hold a candle to a top-notch 4K UHD today.
 
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