THE ASSASSIN (POINT OF NO RETURN)
US, 1993, 108 minutes, Colour.
Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Dermot Mulroney, Miguel Ferrer, Anne Bancroft, Harvey Keitel, Olivia D' Abo, Richard Romanus, Geoffrey Lewis.
Directed by John Badham.
The Assassin (Point of No Return) is a scene by scene remake of Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita. The Hollywood production has been most attentive to detail of decor, costumes to reproduce the original. The film was criticised strongly for being merely a copy remake. Luc Besson had great verve in his original - which critics found lacking in the remake. However, there was a lot of agreement that Bridget Fonda in the central role had far more complexity and subtlety than Anne Parillaud in the original.
The film is very violent, starts with the amoral clash between junkies and police and the heroine's cold-blooded shooting of a policeman at close range. The retraining of recruits, saved from the death sentence, to become government agents and killers also raises questions of social morality and government morality. The assassinations which the recruits perform may be good for society but have enormous repercussions on justice, the law as well as the killers concerned.
Gabriel Byrne is somewhat romantic in the central role of the control. Anne Bancroft is far more gentle and glamorous than Jeanne Moreau in the original. However, Harvey Keitel has a very effective cameo role as Victor, the `cleaner', far more ruthless than many of the graduates of the retraining school.
The film was directed by John Badham, whose credits range from Saturday Night Fever and Frank Langella in Dracula to War Games, Blue Thunder, Short Circuit, The Hard Way, Bird on a Wire and the two Stakeout films.
1. The title and the focus on the assassin? The contrast with the woman Nikita? The American title of Point of No Return? The quality of the film as a remake?
2. The world of the junkies in the pharmacist and the robbery and the violence, the contrast with the courts and prison, the training centre, the world of California, New Orleans? The musical score? The focus on Nina Simone and her songs?
3. The title, the focus, moral stance, amoral? Violence and the law?
4. The junkies and their attack, the brutality, Maggie and her being wounded, shooting the policeman at close range? Audience attitudes towards her?
5. The arrest, her resistance, the background of her family? Drugs, antagonism towards the police? Violence? The court and her sentence? The injection, her waking up? In prison, hospitalised, her recovery?
6. Bob and his style, the meeting with Maggie, her reaction, angers, violence? The proposal? Her attempt to escape? Her being controlled, her options?
7. Bob and his personality, his world, his relationship to his own superiors? His skill in recruiting? Supervision of the training? Controlling Maggie? His personal attraction towards her, care of her?
8. The collage of her training, use of weapons, martial arts, exercise and fitness? The contrast with her visits to Amanda, learning manners, style, makeup and hair? Amanda as a mother figure? Amanda winning her over?
9. Her being allowed out, the restaurant, the information about the assassination, the cold-blooded shooting, the drama of her escape, the chase through the kitchen, the explosives, trapped by the window? Succeeding and returning to Bob?
10. Her being allowed out into the world, the new identity, Claudia/Nina? California, getting the room, meeting J.P., his relaxed style, friendliness with him, the beginning of the affair, living with him? Bob's visit, the meal, his baiting J.P? Her keeping her secrets and the effect on both of them?
11. The phone call, the delivery of the bomb? The explosion? The discussions with Bob? Returning to the centre, Amanda reassuring her?
12. New Orleans, the tickets from Bob, J.P. and his style, the visit, the phone call, the mardi gras procession, the dramatic interchange with J.P., going into the bathroom, waiting for the information for the assassination target? The killing?
13. The promise of the final job? The Arab and his selling of nuclear secrets? Opulent lifestyle? Studying the videos of the girlfriend? Her being transformed into the girlfriend? Acting, infiltrating the house, the initial success - and the confrontation with the victim, her failure of nerve, the massacre, her escape?
14. Bringing in Victor the cleaner, Harvey Keitel's performance? Fixing the hotel? The orders to kill Claudia, the car, the speed, the crash, Claudia's survival, Victor's death? The police investigation? The assumption that she had died?
15. Her returning to J.P., spending the night with him, her disappearance? Walking away? Bob seeing her, letting her go, reporting that she had died?
16. How effective was the film as an action drama? As a portrait of moral dilemmas? As a picture of the action of secret agencies?