'Point of No Return': There's nothing like an original, it's true



(Warner, rated R) 1993

If you never understood the difference between quality foreign-language films and mainstream American fare, allow yourself enough time to watch a double-feature of the French film with English subtitles, "La Femme Nikita," followed by the American remake, "Point of No Return."

Like the recent remake of "The Vanishing," the first thing you'll notice is the complete lack of originality. Every scene in "Point" is nearly shot-for-shot identical to the predecessor. (But why then, you may wonder, are the remake's scenes so much weaker?)

Second, when "Point" finally shows a couple of different twists in the final 20 minutes, they detract from the film rather than enhance it.

Finally, there is a complete lack of subtlety in "Point," something that is most glaring in the final scene, when director John Badham takes the conclusion two steps further, as if American audiences are too stupid to draw a logical, or, God forbid, their own conclusion.

Above all, where "Nikita" feels fresh, stylish, provocative and compelling, "Point" falls flat and uninteresting.

We are never convinced, for instance, that Bridget Fonda is the borderline psychopathic drug addict and cold-blooded killer that the underpinning of the story. Thus, her post-death-sentence transformation into a sophisticated lady assassin for a covert government agency seems more like a journey back to reality than a personality change.

Similarly, Gabriel Byrne, as the woman's government agency mentor and guardian, isn't icy enough to create the proper measure of love/hate between the couple.

Anne Bancroft is serviceable in her role as the motherly fashion and etiquette consultant, as is Dermot Mulroney as the innocent and unsuspecting boyfriend. Only Harvey Keitel, as the ruthless stone-faced "cleaner," brings the proper level of intensity to his character.

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