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Let’s take a look as some beautiful, but dangerous, woman: La Femme Nikita the original series (1997-2001) based on the film Point of No Return (1993)—also reviewed starring Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Byrne. Stay clear of blonds with guns.

Anyone who is a film buff has come across the term “femme fatale” which is a French term that’s translated to “fatal woman.”  Films over the years have made these characters into beautiful, but dangerous, women.  These characters are the ones you love to hate.  The JPFmovies staff has looked into some femme fatale entertainment and decided to review the La Femme Nikita franchise.  First there was the film starring Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel, Anne Bancroft and Olivia d’Abo in Point of No Return (1992).  All fine performers and all         quite young in this film.  Bridget Fonda is literally a child, Keitel and Byrne look like they are in their late 20’s.  The JPFmovies staff was particularly excited to watch a film with Bridget Fonda in it—you don’t see her in too many films.

Our femme fatale, Maggie Hayward (Bridget Fonda), is a violent and unstable drug addict found guilty of murdering a police officer, and is sentenced to death by lethal injection.  A secret government organization fakes her death because they need to have a young female operative in the field.  Agent Bob (Gabriel Byrne) is charged with transforming her from this renegade youth into a sophisticated assassin. She is given a makeover by senior Operative Amanda (Anne Bancroft) and training that turns her into not only a beautiful woman, but also a trained killer.  The pressure is on though as she is only given 6 months reach operative level efficiency otherwise, she will literally get a bullet in the brain.

She passes her final test: an assassination of a VIP eating at a restaurant. Maggie kills the VIP and his bodyguard and then is pursued by a team of the VIP’s bodyguards and then escapes by jumping down a laundry chute. Maggie is relocated to California and finds her first relationship with J.P. (Dermot Mulroney). She promptly performs her first two assignments, both hit jobs, but she begins to hate her work.  Naturally she wants out but the agency has other ideas.  She is told that if she can pull off one last job Bob will try to get her out of the agency.

 

Maggie and her partner have trouble with this job and it goes sideways.  In a early version of The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, Victor, a “cleaner” (Harvey Keitel) is called salvage the mission. Unknown to Maggie, he has also been ordered to kill both agents as well because one failure results in death. After killing the wounded Beth in front of Maggie, he drives her to Fahd’s home she gets what she needs to.  The cleaner is supposed to kill her as well but she is crafty enough to turn the tables and gets away.  Bob (her handler) takes pity on her and falsely tells his boss that Maggie is dead setting her free.  The last scene is Maggie walking away in the pouring rain as she starts anew.

The JPFmovies staff is a big fan of Ms. Fonda and excited to see this film.  Seeing the early version of Keitel as Mr. Wolf as the “cleaner” is frankly hilarious.  Byrne, who also made a great 1990’s film The Usual Suspects, looks like he is in grade school in this movie.  Yeah kinda cliché but all in all not bad if you look at this film as the start of successful franchise depicting secret government organizations transforming young, beautiful, blonde trouble making girls into deadly women.

 

The moral of the story is never trust a blonde with a gun.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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As children we are taught to be careful when crossing the street. That old adage is especially applicable when you are at Miller’s Crossing (1990), the Coen brothers third film.

It is hard to argue that the Coen brothers are not some of the best film writers of our time.  Great movies like Raising Arizona (1987), Barton Fink (1991), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Fargo (1996) and The Big Lebowski (1998) are all products of these prodigious writers.  Each film they make is anything but rigidly formulaic.  The originality of each of these films impresses me to no end.  Miller’s Crossing is no exception.

The plot is tightly woven, so much so that the two brothers needed a break from writing the script and during a three-week vacation to New York City, they ended up writing Barton Fink—the entire film.  Now if that’s not talent, I don’t know what is.  I am also not sure it qualifies as a vacation but that is neither here nor there.

The film is flawlessly shot and the scenes are accompanied by appropriate music.  The attention to detail is immaculate giving the viewer the look and feel of the dirty, debauched city that conjures up nostalgia without controlling the story.  The script is well paced, consistently tense and always capturing the audience’s attention, but it is never exhausting—it is almost Casablanca like.  When compared to movies depicting the same historical genre, Miller’s Crossing’s excellence is that much more obvious, films like The Untouchables are unrealistic and are forced to rely on big name stars to carry you to the end.  Miller’s Crossing actually requires you to listen and is much more satisfying.

This consistent level of excellence extends to nearly all of the performances of the cast. Each of the characters has multiple layers and motivations that are not so simplistic as to be predictable but not overly complex so as to be enigmatic.  Each character brings something positive to the show unlike supporting roles in something like The Untouchables.

Miller’s Crossing details the burdens and obligations of law and the mob in a prohibition era town.  The film’s main character, Gabriel Byrne, in what I think is his best performance, plays the protagonist Tom Reagan, the chief advisor to the local mob boss, Leo O’Bannon (Albert Finney).  The two have a successful working relationship, with Leo being the town’s most powerful gangster.  Things turn sour though, when rival mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito)—(the only mobster I know of that was ever concerned about “etics”) wants to kill an unreliable bookie (John Turturro) and Leo refuses.  Tom knows this is the wrong decision and protests, Leo and Tom part ways and then matters become a little more complicated.  The unreliable bookie also happens to be the brother to Leo’s girlfriend and Tom’s lover Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) injecting love into an already volatile situation.  Leo and Caspar go to war as a consequence.

Tom uses every trick he can to convince Leo to give Bernie up to Caspar to put an end to this unnecessary war; he tries to convince Leo that Verna is playing him to protect her brother (which is true), but Leo will not budge.  After an assassination attempt on Leo goes bad, Tom reveals his affair with Verna to prove that she is dishonest.  Naturally Leo beats Tom up and turn his back on both of them.  Without a job, Tom then appears to change sides and goes to work for the new capo Caspar.  He is immediately commanded to kill Bernie at Miller’s Crossing to prove his loyalty.

The chicken shit Bernie pleads with Tom to spare him, and Tom allows him to escape.  Meanwhile the war starts to go well for Caspar and he assumes Leo’s position as boss of the city.  However, Tom slowly begins sowing seeds of discontent between Caspar and his most trusted enforcer, Eddie Dane (Freeman).  Unfortunately, at the same time, Bernie returns and tries to blackmail Tom into killing Caspar—what a show of gratitude.

Tom’s manages convince Caspar to kill Eddie Dane because Caspar is tricked into believing that the Dane has the double cross on and Casper hates the double cross.  Tom then arranges a meeting with Bernie, but sends Caspar instead.  Bernie gets the jump on Caspar and kills him. Tom arrives and tricks Bernie into giving up his gun, saying they could blame Eddie Dane, then reveals his intention to kill Bernie. Bernie once again begs for mercy, saying “Look into your heart”, but Tom blows the ungrateful bastard away.

With Caspar and Eddie Dane dead, Leo resumes his post as top boss.  Verna has also won her way back into Leo’s good graces, but she reacts coldly to Tom.  On the day Bernie is being buried, Leo announces that Verna has proposed to him, and offers Tom his old job back.  Tom rightfully refuses, and he remains behind and watches Leo leave.

Given that Miller’s Crossing is a great movie without million dollar special effects, it was a box-office failure at the time, making slightly more than $5 million, out of its $10–$14 million budget.  Luckily, it has made a great deal of revenue in video and DVD sales.  The film is now critically acclaimed, and has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I remember seeing this film while at University nostalgically remembering how powerful it was back then.  After viewing it years later with a friend who had never seen it, I was all the more impressed with Miller’s Crossing and you will be too.

 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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