Convicted of killing a cop, punky heroin addict Nikita (Parillaud) is saved from execution by French intelligence operative Bob (Karyo), who offers to school her in the ways of stealth political assassination. Resculpted into a chic, well-behaved killer spy, Nikita assumes her new identity with flair, but soon begins to experience pricks of conscience.
Besson's flashy "Nikita" was a huge hit for the French director in 1990, inspiring an American remake and even a TV series. But those versions lacked an essential component of the original's success: the feral, leggy, crazy/cool/beautiful Parillaud, Besson's then-wife. (He also landed the great Jeanne Moreau, who cameos as Nikita's femininity coach.) Combining elements of the "Pygmalion" story with vivid visuals, high-fashion costumes and sets, and the cold brutality of classic noir, Besson concocted a female-driven action formula that continues to influence movies today. For fun, fast-driving entertainment, "Nikita" fires on all cylinders.