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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

La Femme Nikita: The Complete First Season (review)

The realm of action-adventure fantasy is replete with reluctant heroes, but La Femme Nikita, the cult favorite USA Networks series, broke welcome new ground with its reluctant heroine, a comparative rarity in fiction. Nikita — played by Peta Wilson with a flair for endearing abrasiveness — is a hardened street kid convicted of a brutal crime, rescued from punishment by the mysterious organization Section One and transformed into a deep-cover operative, with her newly discovered femininity her greatest diversion and disguise. The debut episode replays the action of the 1990 French film of the same name (needlessly remade by Hollywood three years later as Point of No Return) but opens up the story possibilities with one simple change: now Nikita is innocent of the murder for which she was condemned, putting her on a higher ground than her handlers hold and complicating the moral sphere the series explores. Never sure if she can trust her bosses, including her unlikely mentor Michael (a slithery Roy Dupuis), Nikita’s missions through these 22 episodes navigate a world of shades of ethical grays populated by politicians and terrorists and almost-mad scientists. Wilson’s raw physical power and tough-edged vulnerability let the series deal with issues of female sexuality, from stratagems of attraction to abuse and rape, with an uncommon grounding in reality, too. Extras include audio commentary by producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, deleted scenes, and a making-of documentary.

MPAA: not rated

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