Posts Tagged ‘Jean Reno’

Movie Reviews 450 – La Femme Nikita (1990)

September 18, 2020

Most North American audiences were first introduced to the Nikita story by the American adaptation, Point of No Return which is a pretty decent film in its own right. Other incarnations include two acclaimed television series, one from right here in Canada. But the original French film La Femme Nikita by director Luc Besson is, as is usually the case, far superior and well worth seeking out.

To those unfamiliar with the story, Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is a rebellious young woman who gets into serious trouble with the law but instead of merely being incarcerated for her crimes she is enlisted into a covert government organization and is trained to be a super agent with emphasis on killing skills. As a mock funeral has already been held, so as far as the world knows she is already dead, so her choices are to either agree to the recruitment or to be ‘disposed of’ for real. Not much of a choice really.

At first a captive in a semi office-prison facility under the watchful eye of her mentor and recruiter Bob (Tchéky Karyo) she shows great potential in all areas of her training such as hand-to-hand combat and firearms. But her rebellious spirit has not been abandoned completely much to the consternation of some of her instructors and the leader of the organization. She does find a friend in the grooming and etiquette teacher Amande (Jeanne Moreau) who transforms that ragged punk youth into an elegant beauty,  which can be her greatest weapon under some circumstances.

Invited to a ‘dinner date’ by Bob who has clearly fallen for her, she is led to believe that it will be nothing more than a private affair within the cafeteria until Bob surprisingly not only leads her out of the facility but escorts her to the fanciest posh restaurant in Paris. Only there she learns that romance was not the reason for this trip, and in fact she is about to start the first of many missions in her new career.

Now given the latitude to live by herself, her tumultuous clandestine operations become more complicated when she falls for Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade) a grocery store clerk. Accepting tickets for Venice as a gift from ‘uncle’ Bob results in yet more complications for a mission, one that goes terribly wrong and requiring calling in  Victor “The Cleaner” (Jean Reno). But the cleaner wants more than just to scrub the operation and the resulting melee will be unlike any mission she has been on before.

On the face of it, La Femme Nikita (also released in some instances simply as Nikita) is nearly non-stop John Woo style action that has dizzying mood shifts to go along with Nikita’s Jekyll/Hide transformations as she is called to duty. But it also offers tender moments setting up the Nikita/Bob/Marco love triangle to the point that you forget this is an action film at all, even if only for a few moments. When Jean Reno barges on screen, the very manner of his entrance is enough to signal that the film is now on an altogether different trajectory from a both bullet count and laughs perspective. I suspect that Victor “The Cleaner” was the inspiration for Harvey Keitel’s “Cleaner” character Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction, although they are dissimilar in many ways, indicative of how Quentin Tarantino adopts characters but makes them his own.

The film sidesteps any discussion regarding the ethics of a government agency that skirts it’s own laws and that enlists deadly mercenaries to deal with troublesome individuals, albeit seemingly deserving of their fates. Nikita’s issue with her involvement is purely from a point of view of freedom and having paid one’s dues. Even finding love in the complicated manner that she does, comes second to being free.

Unless you abhor some of the over the top action sequences, it’s hard for anyone not to love this film. And anyone who can enjoy a Jean Reno performance (if it were even possible not to) will have reason enough to watch this by his presence alone.

Movie Reviews 251 – Wasabi (2001)

January 1, 2016

WasabiRelegated to bit comedic parts in North American movies, Jean Reno gets his due in other countries with starring roles that flaunt his many talents. Wasabi is an excellent example of this as it places punch happy French cop Hubert (Reno) in Japan to deal with a 19 year old, free spirited Shinjuku girl and she is just the beginning of his problems.

Heartbroken by the mysterious sudden rejection of Miko, the love of his life years ago while working in Japan, Hubert likes to round up bad guys (and the occasional innocent bystander) with his fists as much as with his gun, both with equal precision and equally effective. He’s also pretty good with golf clubs and golf balls sometimes even using them for golf. But when the latest victim of his flying knuckles is the son of a high ranking official, he gets an unwanted two month vacation.

Rather than getting a chance to practice his golf swing instead of his fist swing, he gets an unexpected call from an estate lawyer in Japan. It seems that Miko has passed away and left him something in her will. Arriving in Japan he is presented with a box of memories, and a daughter he never knew he had. Yumi (Ryôko Hirosue) doesn’t know the identity of this stranger Hubert, but is placed in his care until she becomes 20, which will be in a mere two days.

Bent on solving the mystery of why Miko left so suddenly those many years ago, especially given the fact that they had a child on the way, Hubert is now faced with caring for a wild child and the fact that she seems to be the target of the yakuza. Hubert enlists the aid of his longtime friend, the flap ear lobed Maurice ‘Momo’ (Michel Muller) who is a French cop still with the Japanese operation Hubert used to work for. The clash of lifestyles is matched by the clash of ages as Hubert and Momo try to reel in Yumi as the clues and insanity mount.

Written and produced by Reno’s frequent partner in crime, director Luc Besson, the movie was not directed by him this time around but rather another of Besson’s collaborator’s, fellow director Gérard Krawczyk.

Honestly, you just can’t go wrong with Jean Reno in a great cop comedy that also has just the right tug of the heartstrings, riddles and slice of Japanese craziness.