(The Sunday Telegraph)
6 December 1998
By TIM GOODMAN
FINALLY, somebody who can kick Xenas butt.
La Femme Nikita is based on the 1991 film of the same name (no, not the American version, thankfully), and it has a lot of style and verve.
The world might be flipping for Lucy Lawless as Xena, but shed take a bullet in a battle with Nikita.
Sure, its nice to see all that horseback riding and mythmaking in Xena: Warrior Princess, but Nikita is decidedly a modern girl.
She packs heat. She kicks some serious behind. Shes a babe.
And shes just this side of totally ruthless. Of course, its this fragment of humanity that makes her character engaging.
La Femme Nikita continues on a weekly basis to
be influenced by the movie. In fact, the premise in the premiere episode came almost straight out of the movie. Nikita (played by Australian Peta Wilson) is first glimpsed living on the streets in rags. Shes dirty and grimy, and without direction.
She stumbles upon a back-alley knifing (the victim turns out to be a cop) and fights with the killer, coming up with the knife just as the police arrive.
Shes sentenced to life in prison, then is pulled out and given a second chance by the highly secretive, specialised government agency known as Section One.
This high-tech bunch looks to have stepped straight out of the Mission: Impossible movie. But theyre more high-powered than the CIA. In fact, La Femme Nikita owes more to the classic James Bond movies than anything else. This is spy v spy all the way. No rules. No red tape. No mistakes. Just bodies everywhere and big guns with silencers going off a lot.
After faking Nikitas death (nobody came to the funeral), Section One trains her for two years. Her cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow mentor, Michael (Roy Dupuis), is warned that shes a loose cannon and she needs to be "cancelled." (Anytime they use that language, youve gotta love it.)
Anyway, he sticks by her, thinking that shes a cold-blooded killer (never knowing that she didnt kill that cop) and will work out. Like The Fugitive before her, she has to play with the hand shes been dealt. She has to go along with the plan. Soon, she gets better and better at offing the bad guys. But shes not the ruthless killing machine they think she is and want her to be. It all takes a toll.
Plus, shes not exactly Bond. She makes mistakes. Shes still learning the trade. And thats what makes La Femme Nikita believable. Shes taking tiny steps.
The writers and producers havent transformed her into the Terminator overnight. She refuses to lose her soul. Its a nice complexity to a series that could have easily gone over the top. Each week, Nikita has blossomed a little more.
So far, Wilson is playing her as edgy not exactly talkative, but not a steely-eyed monster either. Wilson has found a way to be both a trapped test case and a woman getting used to killing for the good of the country (and sometimes the world).
Theres a wonderful array of international bad guys in Nikita, and the show is beginning to expand the surrounding characters nicely.
If youve seen the movie, youll know that, at some point, Nikita is going to want out. Shes going to want her life back. That gives this show great promise.Maybe one day, Xena will time-travel and meet up with her newest action peer. Put your money on the leggy blonde with the high-calibre pistol.
La Femme Nikita airs Monday, Nine at 9.3Opm.
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