Point of No Return Brings Nikita Home

Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Dermot Mulroney, Miguel Ferrer, Anne Bancroft, Olivia d'Abo, Richard Romanus, Harvey Keitel. Directed by John Badham. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French), monaural (Spanish). 109 minutes. 1993. Warner Home Video 12819. Rated R. $24.98.

Point of No Return is a solid, entertaining action flick based on Luc Besson's Nikita (released in the US as La Femme Nikita). I found Besson's film to be a bit grittier, with tighter execution, but the American remake has its charms. It stars Bridget Fonda as Maggie, a street junkie sentenced to death after a botched robbery leaves her companions and a police officer dead. Maggie is apparently executed, buried, and dead to the outside world. However, she awakens in a cell, where a man known only as Bob offers her a deal she can't refuse: Become a government assassin, or become as dead as the world believes her to be.

After a year of intensive training and refinement, Maggie emerges as a beautiful but deadly young woman. Given a new identity, she tries to build a normal life for herself by finding a man and falling in love. Things go well for a while---until her superiors activate her. This puts Maggie's two worlds on a collision course that is certain to destroy at least one of them.

Director John Badham effectively stages the film's action sequences, and Bridget Fonda manages to bring the role off, although not as effectively as Anne Parillaud did in the original. Gabriel Byrne is always interesting to watch, and he brings the right combination of fire and ice to the role of Bob. Anne Bancroft is given relatively little to do in the film, yet she's such a riveting presence that you can't take your eyes off her. Equally effective is Harvey Keitel as the agency's stone-faced cleanup man, whose only purpose is to eliminate all traces of bungled operations.

Viewers can choose between widescreen and cropped presentations on this DVD. Save yourself time and frustration and stick with the letterboxed presentation; the cropped version loses far too much material from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio to be anything but irritating. With most of its theatrical framing intact, the letterboxed version is quite satisfying. Overall, the transfer looks good, with rich, well-saturated colors and a high level of detail. Digital compression artifacts seldom make their presence known.

Warner has done an effective job of remastering the soundtrack, but the result is not as good as a soundtrack mixed specifically for Dolby Digital 5.1. The surround channels lack the oomph of newer mixes, but the bass reproduction is quite good, and the channel separation across the front pinpoints the film's sound effects, gunfire, and explosions. In addition, this DVD's slick interactive menus contain full-motion video and sound.