Nikita: What do I do?
Bob: Learn. Learn to read, walk, talk, smile and even fight. Learn to do everything.
Nikita: What for?
Bob: To serve your country.
Nikita: What if I don't want to?
Bob: Row 8, Plot 30.
Nikita (US title: La Femme Nikita) is a 1990 French action thriller film written and directed by Luc Besson.
Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is a young Parisian junkie, who along with her friends holds up a pharmacy and ends up killing a police officer. She is arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in prison, where she's drugged and then wakes up to be told that she has been declared Legally Dead from "suicide" and now has two options: let them kill her off for real, or accept recruitment into a new life working for a shadowy government agency. Where she will be taught how to be a lady, how to be a spy, and how to be an assassin—all in the service of her country.
Remade in Hong Kong as Black Cat (1991) with Jade Leung (as Catherine) and in America as Point of No Return (1993) with Bridget Fonda in the Nikita role, and more loosely remade in Korea as The Villainess. There have been two television adaptations so far: La Femme Nikita with Peta Wilson and Nikita with Maggie Q.
Nikita provides examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Deconstructed. She is nowhere near as badass as she became in adaptations.
- Adaptational Villainy: In Point of No Return, this applies to both the Division higher-ups, and Victor the cleaner. In the original film, the Division's decision to send the Ax-Crazy Victor to "clean things up" was highly questionable, and Victor immediately began making an even bigger mess of things, but even despite his stupid and bloodthirsty actions, he did end up escaping with Nikita and ensuring she made it out alive. In the remake, some of Victor's ruthless actions become even more reprehensible (for instance, he originally killed his own teammate for shooting at him first, while in the remake he just murders her in cold blood), and he's under direct orders to murder Maggie after she finishes the job, leading to them violently clashing in the climax.
- Anti-Climax: During Nikita's first field mission, she's instructed to pose as a maid. Her entire job is delivering room service to the target given to her by a group of imposing agents (and one very nervous hotel manager)... and that's it. After she's done her small job, she goes home; her basic facial reaction is "Really? That's it?". This is subverted in Point of No Return, when a bomb the imposing agents planted in the stuff she delivered blows up the target.
- Ax-Crazy: Victor the Cleaner. His idea of salvaging an operation gone wrong is simply to shoot as many people as possible. And he only gets worse when he suffers a Villainous Breakdown.
- Bathroom Breakout: During her first assignment ever, Nikita is informed there is a small window in the bathroom, which she should use to get out once the "job" is done. The window turns out to be a wall. And Bob knew about it - the test was about Nikita's ability to adapt and improvise.
- Bittersweet Ending: Nikita escapes from the clutches of the Division. But she had to drop everything in a hurry and had to leave Marco behind. And Bob, for that matter.
- Book on the Head: Part of the way the organization teaches Nikita to be a classy lady.
- Boxed Crook: Nikita is recruited from death row to become an assassin by means of a fake lethal injection.
- Character Title: Both the French and English titles of the movie.
- Cleanup Crew: Victor the cleaner a ruthless Implacable Man feared even by the trained killers of the agency. He not only disposes of the bodies in the bathtub with acid (while they're still alive, much to his annoyance) but forces Nikita to carry out the original mission.
- Cold Sniper: In one memorable scene, Nikita has a conversation with her boyfriend, while at the same time carefully snipes a target from within the bathroom of their hotel suite.
- Contract on the Hitman: Nikita becomes a liability for the Division after a botched job. They send their "cleaner" to salvage it and when he gets killed (thanks to his own recklessness, not because of anything she did), half of the organization is after the girl.
- Deconstructed Trope: Of Tyke Bomb and Action Girl. Despite years of training and conditioning, Nikita is just a reluctant killer who barely gets through many of her assignments.
- Determinator: Victor the Cleaner. He doesn't give up, period. Which gets him killed.
- Disposing of a Body: The psychotic Victor the Cleaner is called in to fix up a hit that's gone wrong. After pouring Hollywood Acid over several bodies in the bathtub, he's pissed off when one body starts thrashing about as he's not actually been killed.
- Dissonant Serenity: During the Action Prologue Nikita is stoned out of her mind, and spends the entire shoot-out sitting under the counter with a Thousand-Yard Stare listening to her headphones. A cop finds her and assumes she's harmless until she puts a gun under his chin...
- Femme Fatale: Subverted. There are some hints that Nikita might play this role towards Bob and especially Marco, but in the end she tries to keep Marco out of all the trouble, and she's always at the receiving end of misery in her relations with Bob. Come to think of it, Nikita actually never gets to use her seductivity as a weapon, Amande's coaching notwithstanding.
- For the Evulz: The murder of a cop by Nikita could be attributed to a number of factors, but the manner of the killing in cold blood definitely has shades of this.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Victor the Cleaner
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Nikita is a junky street punk that got put through few years of grueling training, conditioning and continous breaking, until she's turned into an obedient covert operative for all kinds of shady jobs. Even if she's far from being a "super spy", by the time she's finally released from her training, she's a classy, responsible female agent following orders of her superiors, rather than the rebellious trainwreck she started as.
- Got Volunteered: Nikita is informed that her faked death can be made very real if she isn't interested in becoming an operative.
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: A bodyguard in the Kitchen Chase drops a rifle grenade down the muzzle of a breech-loading M203 grenade launcher.
- Honorary Uncle: Bob explains his relationship to Nikita to Marco as "Uncle Bob". It becomes a convenient cover for Bob, since it allows him to give Nikita expensive tickets to a foreign country (to assassinate someone) as a wedding gift.
- IKEA Weaponry: Nikita is told where to find the components of her weapon hidden in the bathroom, in order to assemble it and kill a target who will soon pass in sight of the bathroom window. The scope issue may be understandable as it is a Steyr AUG.
- Impaled Palm: Nikita snaps and does this to a policeman with a pencil. She actually stabs it into the back of his hand, which paradoxically looks as though it would hurt more.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Played With. During her attempted escape, Nikita takes Bob hostage and uses his own revolver for that. After he continuously informs her he can't open the doors to let her loose, he then adds that his gun is unloaded. It is true - the first chamber was unloaded (a safety precaution used by revolver users), but he instantly jumps to Nikita when she tries to Eat Her Gun.
- Kitchen Chase: Nikita is cornered in the kitchen by several bodyguards after making a hit in a restaurant, and dives down the garbage chute to escape being blown up by a rifle grenade.
- Large Ham: "MY NAME IS NIKITA!"
- Love Redeems: Downplayed, as there's no redemption involved. However, Marco's love for Nikita subtly but profoundly transforms her into a better person than even before she entered an assassin training program and he's the one who ensures that she can safely leave the Division without a target on her back.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played With. At first Nikita comes off to Marco as this, but he quickly becomes frustrated that they're not living a normal, typical life. In the end, he probably influences her more than vice versa.
- Market-Based Title: It was released in America as La Femme Nikita, just so that everyone would understand it was in French (and not, like, a Khrushchev biopic or anything).
- Mood Dissonance: About fifteen minutes in there's a scene where the junkie Nikita is turning her life around in the secret government agency, complete with bouncy, uplifting music. The problem is this is about ten minutes after watching her blow a cop's head off.
- Mundane Made Awesome: For Nikita, shopping in a supermarket with her own money is a freedom she never dreamed possible.
- Neck Lift: Victor the Cleaner gives one to Nikita complete with lifting her off the floor by the collar and a knife pressed against her throat when she suggests calling for further orders regarding the endangered mission. Stating he never stops a mission once it has started, threatening to burn her face off if she doesn't comply with him.
- Pistol Pose: One of the posters.
- Police Brutality: Granted, she did kill one of their officers, so they're going to take it personally.
- Professional Killer: And on governmental paycheck - the Division trains and then uses Nikita for all sort of covert jobs, including bomb-planting and sniping.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Nikita has completed her training as an assassin. Bob takes her out to dinner to celebrate and then reveals that it's actually a test: she has to kill a target and escape without preparation.
- Resignations Not Accepted: As usual for a shadow organization. Nikita is nonchalantly informed by Bob her fake grave might very much be filled with her body for real.Nikita: What if I don't want to?
Bob: Row 8, Plot 30.
- Samus Is a Girl: Nikita receives the identity of her target, it comes as a surprise.Bob: (on radio) La femme! La femme!
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Nikita is assigned a trainer whose job is to make Nikita more feminine, which will make her a better deep cover agent.Amande: There are two things that are infinite: femininity and means to take advantage of it.
- Sink or Swim Mentor: To celebrate the successful completion of her training, Nikita's handler takes her to a fancy restaurant where she's suddenly given a Desert Eagle and her first assignment, to kill a man eating at another table. She's told the escape route is through the bathroom window, but it turns out to be bricked up, testing her ability to Indy Ploy.
- Small Girl, Big Gun: The famous first assignment, in which Nikita is given a Desert Eagle. Besson was even credited by some film critics for inventing "girls with guns" subgenre of action movies.
- Spiritual Successor:
- Pop Matters notes that Nikita is "gifted, complicated, and tough-minded, a lively precursor for Buffy or Sydney in Alias, even Trinity in The Matrix."
- A more direct example is The Professional which also has a young woman training to become an assassin and a ruthless "cleaner" portrayed by Jean Reno.
- Stupid Evil: Victor's actions end up causing nothing but trouble for Nikita's operation, to the point that it's a wonder how he was ever employed at all. He immediately moves to dissolving the bodies of the targets in acid, including one who wasn't actually dead because they hadn't been ordered to kill him (which he'd have learned had he taken a moment to actually discuss the situation, as Nikita and her partner asked him to). This results in the situation escalating and Victor gunning down his own teammate, and violently threatening Nikita not to report to her superiors. After she goes to the embassy to collect the documents and try and resolve the rest of the operation quietly, Victor again escalates things by gunning down all the guards who were starting to get suspicious, and ends up escaping with Nikita as their car is being riddled with bullets, culminating in his death.
- Unbuilt Trope: Of modern "female super agent" and "girls with guns". Nikita is a highly trained operative for a secret agency. While competent, she's far from being One-Man Army, has multiple psychological issues and hang-ups, her backstory is extremely unsympathetic, her training consisted predominately of non-stop breaking and reforming her until she's the person the Division needed and she never stopped trying to quit. The fact she was locked-up for years inside the training facility also heavily affected her social skills and she's utterly clueless how to lead a regular life once outside.
- The Un-Smile: When Nikita is told to smile.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: To celebrate the successful completion of her training, Bob takes her to a fancy restaurant where she's suddenly given a Desert Eagle and her first kill assignment. As she's only wearing a Little Black Dress, she tucks the spare magazine into her cleavage.