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Point of No Return (1993)

August 10th, 2007 · 1 Comment

John Huston once said: “”There is a willful lemming-like persistence in remaking past successes time after time. They can’t make them as good as they are in our memories, but they go on doing them and each time it’s a disaster. Why don’t we remake some of our bad pictures … and make them good?” This Distracted Globe recycles itself and examines the best and worst remakes.

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By Joe Valdez

In Washington, D.C., four street punks break into a convenience store scouring for drugs. The police respond and are quickly turned into target practice. The sole survivor – Maggie Hayward (Bridget Fonda) – kills one of the officers. During her interrogation, she slams a pencil through the hand of another cop for good measure. She is sentenced to death by lethal injection.

The unruly junkie awakens from her execution in an underground facility, where a government agent named Bob (Gabriel Byrne) informs her that she’s dead, at least officially. He gives her a choice, help her country, or die. Maggie responds by taking Bob’s weapon from him and using him as a shield in an escape attempt. She doesn’t get very far.

With the help of an instructor (Anne Bancroft) skilled in the art of feminine wiles, Maggie transforms into a smoldering, tech savvy assassin. Bob takes her out to dinner to celebrate, giving her a Hammerli pistol as a present and instructing her to kill a VIP sitting behind them. Maggie runs into some trouble in the kitchen, but passes her final test.

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Dispatched to Venice, California upon graduation, Maggie settles into a relationship with a photographer (Dermot Mulroney). Bob, who apparently has a romantic fixation on Maggie, checks in on her. The more jobs she participates in, the more Maggie wants out, until one of her assignments goes very bad and the agency sends a cleaner (Harvey Keitel) to make her problems go away.

In 1990, writer-director Luc Besson unveiled Nikita. The French language action thriller told the story of a 19-year-old punk junkie played by Anne Parillaud who kills a policeman when her gang raids a convenience store. She imagines she’s been executed, but is wakened by a government agent named Bob (Tchéky Karyo). Bob gives her a chance to repay her debt to society by becoming an agent for the state.

Nikita – a French/Italian co-production budgeted at $20 million – did not open to acclaim in France, but was a hit with audiences. Gaumont sold distribution rights in the U.S. to Columbia Pictures, who released it in 1991 as La Femme Nikita. Film rights were sold to Warner Bros., and the studio hired Alexandra Seros, then Robert Getchell to adapt an English language remake. John Badham signed on to direct.

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Julia Roberts was offered the lead role, but turned it down. Bridget Fonda was cast in her place. The filmmakers settled on The Specialist as their title, but three months before it was released, the studio informed them that they’d already promised that title to Steven Seagal. The film became Point of No Return instead. Fonda hated the new title so much she couldn’t bring herself to use it in interviews.

While Nikita ranks as one of the great action films of the ’90s – a beautifully stylized bullet ballet that’s expressive and offbeat throughout – there was room to improve on it. An English language remake could have gone upside the fat head of Hollywood, injecting style, imagination and playfulness into the assembly line action spectacle.

John Badham was not the director to subvert the assembly line. He is an assembly line, and Point of No Return is just the same old product rolling off it. Composer Hans Zimmer takes what was so cool and mysterious in the original and makes it dull and obvious in the remake. Fonda lacks the physical or emotional dexterity to play an assassin, while the screenplay cuts and pastes Nikita without translating any of its ingenuity.

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“In terms of style and originality, Point of No Return can’t compare to its inspiration, but, for a Hollywood thriller, it’s more than adequate,” writes James Berardinelli at ReelViews.

Edwin Jahiel says, ” In quality Point of No Return is on a par with the original. Some parts are a little better, others a little worse, yet most of its strengths and weaknesses correspond to those of Nikita.”

“The girl’s dead too.” View the end credits and listen to Hans Zimmer’s woefully ridiculous musical score. Fine for Olympic figure skating, a laughable choice for an action thriller.

Tags: Hitman · Interrogation · Master and pupil · Shootout · Woman in jeopardy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Piper // Aug 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    They missed everything on this remake. The biggest example of this is when Fonda drops off the room service tray and then walks away. In the Nikita, the idea was that “maybe this wasn’t such a bad gig after all” because nothing happens. Of course in the American version, the scene ends in a crazy explosion. I knew we were in trouble after that. Actually, I knew we were in trouble the second I heard they were remaking La Femme Nikita.

    I saw this with my girlfriend. When we finished I couldn’t stop talking about Nikita and she agreed to go back to my apartment and watch it with me. When we were finished watching that, she said she liked Point Of No Return better. It was hard for me to stay with her after that.

    So tell me you’re going to cover Ocean’s 11 in all this.

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