No, not the sad TV spin-off or the Hollywood rehash - - Luc Besson's original girl-with-a-gun thriller is the real deal. Kicking off with a bloody drugstore shootout, we see junkie punk-bitch Nikita (Anne Parillaud) blow away a cop and book herself in for a lethal injection. But the French government has other ideas, faking Nikita's death and reprogramming her as a high-class hitwoman. Think Pygmalion with automatic weapons.

Besson lays on a slick coating of Gallic flair, matching kinetic violence with some surprising tenderness as Nikita falls for her mentor Bob (Tchéky Karyo). In fact, it's Parillaud who makes Nikita more than bullets and black dresses, her Nietzschean wild child burning away to leave a woman aching with remorse over the price of a deadly double life.

Don't worry, we're not getting too heavy - - this is Besson not Bresson, remember - - and let's not forget it's the surface style that keeps Nikita firing as the plot starts to lose focus. Look out for some great supporting turns, too, notably from wrinkly sex symbol Jeanne Moreau and Jean Reno as a trigger-happy hitman (this time minus under-age girlfriend and pot plant).

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