Sunday 15 May 2011

Movie Review: Point Of No Return (1993)

A remake of Luc Besson's film Nikita, the Hollywood treatment not unexpectedly strips the soul out of the story and replaces it with abject superficiality. In Point Of No Return the action sequences are over-muscled on steroids, the character motivations are non-existent, the romance is phony, and the tits-and-ass are plentiful and utterly superfluous. Bridget Fonda tries hard to bring some depth and conviction to the central character of Maggie (nom de guerre Nina), but is undermined by a dull script and director John Badham insisting on filming her in her underwear at every opportunity.

In Washington DC, Maggie is a drugged-out criminal, running with a gang of lost and vicious youth. A robbery of a drug store goes wrong, and in the ensuing shoot-out Maggie blows out the brains of a police officer. She is convicted and sentenced to death.

Bob (Gabriel Byrne) rescues Maggie from the lethal injection by enrolling her, initially very much against her will, into a top secret agency that does the government's dirty work by eliminating high profile undesirables. In addition to combat and weapons training, Maggie's instructors include Amanda (Anne Bancroft), who teaches her social etiquette. As she is polished into an expert assassin, Bob naturally takes a much more than just professional interest in Maggie's progress.

Upon mastering all the required skills, Maggie is given the code name Nina and unleashed into society, where she quickly meets and falls in love with J.P. (Dermot Mulroney), although she cannot share much pillow talk with him since her job includes tasks such wiping out criminal cartels by blowing up entire hotel floors and targeted assassinations using high powered sniper rifles. Eventually Maggie grows tired of the killing, Bob grows tired of J.P., and a mission-gone-wrong activates The Cleaner (Harvey Keitel) to kill everyone in sight.

There are some slick moments in Point Of No Return, and with a healthy suspension of disbelief, the action sequences are entertaining in a Schwarzeneggeresque way, with plenty of high-tech weaponry, fiery explosions, an endless number of goons materializing from nowhere to get killed by Nina, and no shortage of impressive stunts. And the small portion of the film with The Cleaner starts to become funny in a good way, whether intentional or not. Fonda tackles her role fearlessly and manages to progress with the character, while everyone else around her spouts cliches with statuesque fluidity.

But there is no escaping the ham-handed approach of Point Of No Return, a point where apparently subtlety is a lost art, and where all the points need to be driven home with a sledgehammer.

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