Maggie (Bridget Fonda) is a hopeless drug addict who one night, in desperate need of a fix, accompanies her heavily armed junkie friends to a local chemist to raid his supplies. However, though they break in, they are so inept that they make their presence very obvious and the owner ventures down to confront them with his shotgun, which results in mayhem as the police arrive and the chemist is shot dead. Maggie, mostly out of it, huddles in a corner until one cop approaches her whereupon she puts a gun underneath his chin and pulls the trigger, blowing his brains out the top of his head. She is arrested, sentenced to death, and the execution goes ahead with undue haste - or does it?
On the subject of undue haste, Luc Besson's cult thriller Nikita was barely three years old before this Hollywood remake was released, and as was often the case with this kind of rehash of a successful project in a foreign language, it landed as a resounding flop when anyone who would have wanted to see it preferred to check out the original, and those who had no idea it was a remake, or simply were not bothered because they would not watch subtitled movies anyway, gave it a cursory look, if that, as they were far from interested in an action movie of such a provenance. All that said, it did pick up a few fans down the years, even from some viewers who preferred its stylings over the original version.
But maybe that was the nostalgia talking, as for a start Fonda was one of the faces of nineties cinema, all the more so when she opted to retire from the screen early into the next century to concentrate on her home life with musician and composer Danny Elfman. If you had any happy memories of attending movies in her prime decade at all, she would be part and parcel of at least one that had chimed with you, and as she did not often get a showcase all her own, often cast as the romantic interest to a leading man, then at the very least you could welcome Point of No Return, or The Assassin as it was retitled in some territories, as offering her the opportunity to strut her stuff as the focus of attention.
Indeed, this was a very nineties-looking production all round, from its sleek cinematography to its cast to its action setpieces (director John Badham favoured slow motion in some parts), which could get the reminiscences going for those film buffs around at the time. Alas, what it did not entirely escape was the shadow of its inspiration, and would forever emerge lacking in comparison; sure, Besson's efforts were pretty silly when you got down to brass tacks, but he had a sense of dedication to his craziness in plot and action that could be excused thanks to them being so difficult to divorce from their French milieu. Transplant that to Hollywood, and the feeling the remake was always making excuses for Besson's excesses and unable to concoct something to replace them when necessary - and it was necessary.
Anne Parillaud would always be the cineaste's concept of Nikita, and there was a reason this was not titled Maggie (or any of the protagonist's other codenames), for Fonda failed to make this role her own in spite of her usual professionalism, which did not translate to much that was truly inspired. That plot saw her trained as an assassin by a top secret organisation, and this offered her a perspective on the preciousness of life that she had been recruited to destroy. So when she's finally allowed out of the complex that has been her reluctant home for months, she begins to live her life, she gets her own place by the beach, a nice photographer boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney), but then her old trainer Bob (Gabriel Byrne with a Scottish accent, oddly) re-enters the scene and starts giving her orders to kill her targets and she cracks up under the strain. Badham was a safe pair of hands, but he’s not anyone's idea of an eccentric enough talent to deliver on such a contrived set-up as Besson was, and the result was a resounding "not quite" from start to finish, though the conclusion was at least unconventional for Hollywood. Music by Hans Zimmer.