The Assassin was released at a time when Hollywood remakes of international films was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today. Granted, we’re only talking back at the start of the last decade, but prior to the reach of the DVD format, which has opened up international cinema to a far broader audience, it was very much chosen and picked for us as to which films would break through and get a big screen subtitled release.
Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita was one such film, and it’s the strict template for John Badham’s glossy remake. Known as Point Of No Return in the States, it sees Bridget Fonda stepping into the Anne Parouillaud role, this time playing Maggie, a woman going off the rails and very much on the wrong side of the law. Sentenced to death, she’s thrown a surprise lifeline by Gabriel Byrne’s Bob. He turns her life around, shows her a different way of living (with the help of Anne Bancroft), and then ultimately pulls the rug from under her feet, and sets her off on an assassination mission.
With a later appearance from Harvey Keitel as The Cleaner, it proves a fine cast, and Fonda in particular seizes her chance at a good, solid leading role. Certainly on the evidence here, it’s surprising she didn’t snare further major roles of this ilk, although the box office performance of The Assassin probably didn’t help her chances.
It’s also, to be fair, not a bad stab at remaking the film. Granted, there’s no major threat to Besson’s original here, save for one or two little alterations, but Badham keeps things efficient, and on the straight and narrow for the most part. There have certainly been far more offensive remakes than this, and it’s a good, solid entertaining picture. You won’t, with due respect to the man, come away from it thinking that Badham is any rival to Besson, though.
The film proves an odd choice for Blu-ray release, however, given just how little effort Warner Bros has put into the release. The solitary extra feature here is a trailer, and the presentation of the film itself is a good deal below what you’d expect from the format. The picture seems murky and unloved, and while there are moments when you suspect it’s enjoyed some degree of upgrade, it’s not the quality of remaster you’d expect from a high definition disc.
The audio goes some way for compensating, though, with an aggressive surround sound mix offering a surprising level of substance, surround and rumble. It’s not enough to offset the underwhelming picture work, but at least you feel they’ve thrown you a bone.
Ultimately, though, it’s an entirely unessential disc, that doesn’t push hard enough to earn your cash, whether you’re a fan of the film or not. Perhaps a proper high definition version of La Femme Nikita may be more persuasive?
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