Warner Bros. // 1997 // 975 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // September 20th, 2006
Beauty and danger collide at every turn.
Take three parts Alias, mix with one part 24, add a dash of Dark Angel and you've got one of the sexiest, smartest spy shows ever made for TV. So my question is, why isn't anyone watching?
La Femme Nikita was developed by Joel Surnow (24) and based on a 1990 French movie. Nikita (Peta Wilson, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) is falsely accused of murdering a police officer and she is given the choice of prison or going to work for a counter terrorist organization known as Section One. Not exactly a nine to five job, operatives have their entire lives erased and they are kept under constant surveillance. Using the Jack Bower rules of justice, Nikita and her playmates are expected to lie, cheat, steal, torture, maim and kill for the "good of the many." Fighting the not-so-good fight next to Nikita is stonefaced, but handsome, Michael (Roy Dupuis), aging Hippie Walter (Don Francks), and computer geek Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson). Running the show is the cold and calculating Madeline (Alberta Watson) (basically playing the same character she plays in 24) and her evil henchman Wolfe (Eugene Robert Glazer).
In this season, Nikita is brainwashed (or is she?), so Michael and the others are in for a fight as they try to get the old Nikita back. Other storylines include long lost relatives, various love affairs, and a "collector" who wants Nikita for his own.
La Femme Nikita was part of the Sunday Night Heat block that put the fledging USA Network on the map. The show was living proof that a cable produced and aired program could be both well-made and fannishly popular. Paired with the cheesy (but loveable) action of Pacific Blue, and the sexy but simplistic Silk Stalkings, Nikita was a standout -- for reasons both good and bad.
Marketed as an action spy show, Nikita likely put off a lot of viewers with its complicated plots, dialogue-heavy scripts, and artsy design. The series has a foreign film quality about it; much of this due to Wilson's sultry, accented delivery and Dupuis' French Vogue style. The characters are cold and stiff, and all of their lines are either handed out robotically or whispered as if a dirty little secret. But don't get me wrong: in this show, those are both good things.
I'll admit that when the show first aired, I passed on it due to the very reasons I stated above. I was much more interested in the rollicking adventures of bike cops on the beach than in wrapping my brain around a storyline that went six layers deep. Of course, I had a toddler in the house then so that might have had a lot to do with my lapse in critical judgment. Seeing La Femme Nikita now, on DVD with no pressure from the outside world and the ability to rewind for clarification, I was totally sucked in. I'm a film noir fan, and this series is about as close as you get on TV. The pyramid of lies. The constant backstabbing. The Project Runway action sequences that prove even assassins can look good at work. (Think Gap ad gone postal.) This show projects the ultimate in cool.
This fourth season boxed set will be a must have for fans of the show and it's not a bad place to start if you've never watched. I was able to quickly pick up on the storyline, and frequent flashbacks and reminders from the scriptwriters made it easy to follow. Well, as easy as La Femme Nikita gets, anyway.
On the DVD side, this set is sorely lacking in extras. We have "Cancelled Scenes" with commentaries by...are you ready...the assistant to the executive consultant, Joel Surnow. They had planned a third by Surnow's maid but she was unexpectedly deported. Okay, so there are also two episode commentaries with actor Eugene Robert Glazer but come on, where's Wilson or Dupuis? Also a -- oops, I forgot my line, very forgettable gag reel.
On the snarky side, can I just say that if Section wants its agents to go around town unnoticed, they really should stop hiring fashion models and stop dressing them in black designer duds. Assassin? What assassin? You mean that gorgeous guy with the chiseled features and long flowing hair who was wearing a $4,000 black leather duster, perfectly tailored and creased pants, a silk Armani shirt and $800 designer sun glasses? Nope. Haven't seen him.
If you're a fan of 24, you'll recognize a lot of what you see on this series. Section One is an only slightly more secretive version of CTU. Birkoff and Chloe were separated at birth and Alberta Watson still hasn't blinked. The only real difference here? Peta Wilson looks better than Kiefer Sutherland in a lace bra and panties.
This court finds La Femme Nikita guilty of attempting to merge art with television. Who said it couldn't be done?
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 975 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by director Brad Turner and actor Eugene Robert Glazer on Time to Be Heroes
* Commentary by writer Peter Lenkov and actor Eugene Robert Glazer on Sympathy for the Devil
* Canceled scenes with commentary by Christopher Heyn
* Gag reel
* Nikita DVD Official Site