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Little Nikita
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by Jack Sommersby

"Poitier and Phoenix Do Some Serious Slumming"
1 stars

A box-office disaster and punching bag for the critics, it truly makes you wonder how this project ever got the greenlighted by someone not with a bottom-basement IQ.

One of the worst movies ever made, the idiotic espionage thriller Little Nikita is so bad it does the unthinkable in making you look back at the atrocious Arthur Penn-directed Target from three years prior as a model of intelligence. Which is quite a shame in that star Sidney Portier made such a superb return to the screen just a few months prior in the fine Shoot to Kill -- there, he played a San Francisco FBI agent tracking a vicious killer in the Colorado wilderness; here, he plays a San Diego FBI agent, Roy Parmenter, tracking a Russian double agent codenamed "Scuba" (Richard Lynch) who was responsible for killing Roy's partner twenty years ago. It seems Scuba has come out of hiding to eliminate ten "sleepers" (Russian spies who've been living in America for many years under aliases) to blackmail his mother country into paying him two-hundred-thousand dollars -- two of whom are husband and wife Richard and Elizabeth Grant (Richard Jenkins and Caroline Kava) who operate a successful tree-nursery business and have a son, Jeff (River Pheonix), who's unaware of his parents' true identities. Through plot developments too puerile to rate even the barest of cursory inspections, Roy moves in across the street from the Grants and tries convincing Jeff of the danger he's in, which leads to tiresome exchanges between the two that neither further the story nor enrich their flabby characters. Amorphous and disjointed, the movie has zero suspense and tension, and so little believability the screenplay must have been written with the guidance of a Oija board. I can understand the awfulness of it all coming from co-writer John Hill, whose only previous credit was the atrocity of an Andy Kaufman comedy Heartbeeps, but Oscar-winning Bo Goldman, of One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest and Shoot the Moon, is also credited. (Did he go the Cukoo route of a frontal lobotomy before sitting down at the typewriter?) And further hampering the proceedings is the woefully inadequate direction of Richard Benjamin, who showed semblances of ability with the comedy My Favorite Year and coming-of-age drama Racing with the Moon but this time around can't properly shape a single solitary scene, not to mention stage an action sequence, to save his life (the finale on a railcar and then a bridge is embarrassingly bad.) Throw in a cheesily bombastic score by Marvin Hamlisch, amateurish acting (yes, even from Poitier), and execrable dialogue by the likes of "Spare me the violins, G-man!" and you have a certifiable cinematic calamity that'll make you want to take up needlepoint as an alternative form of entertainment.

Check out the Charles Bronson 1977 "Telefon," which also dealt with Russian sleeper agents, instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2325&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/30/13 21:11:31
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User Comments

4/05/03 Jack Sommersby A perfectly rotten, ludicrously plotted thriller. 1 stars
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  18-Mar-1988 (PG)
  DVD: 17-Sep-2002



Directed by
  Richard Benjamin

Written by
  John Hill
  Bo Goldman

  Sidney Poitier
  River Phoenix
  Richard Jenkins
  Richard Lynch
  Lucy Deakins

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