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Point of No Return Review

6 min read

I never did mind about the little things

What They Say:
Hardened criminal Maggie Hayward’s consistent violence, even in police custody, ends in the execution chamber. However, top-secret US government agent ‘Bob’ arranges a staged death, so Maggie can be elaborately trained as a phantom killer and subdued into obedience.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Remakes and adaptations of previous works are something movie audiences will never be free of. After Luc Besson’s Nikita gained the following that it did, both among movie audiences and those in the industry itself, it was inevitable that a Hollywood version of the film would find its way into theaters. Directed by John Badham, Point of No Return became a vehicle for Bridget Fonda to try something different from all the comedies and romantic material she had done at that point. It was also a film that helped push her harder sign again after Single White Female the year before which had won over audiences quite handily.

Taking place in Washington D.C. and Southern California, it follows a young woman named Maggie (Bridget Fonda) who has let her life go to hell. Nothing more than a junkie in need of her next hit, she and her friends pick the wrong place to try and swipe their drugs from and Maggie finds herself the only survivor and sentenced to death. But her aggressive style, and her wild-child nature, catches the attention of Bob (Gabriel Byrne), a man who works for a mysterious agency that recruits those who are essentially dead to the world and trains them to be perfect assassins. Maggie fits into this perfectly, though it takes quite a few months to break some of her personality traits so she can be pliant enough to be properly trained for what they want her to do in the field.

When she finishes the first test mission, she’s quickly assigned to head off to Southern California where she takes on a role that allows her to travel easily for business so she can go on any assignment they give her. With the code name of Nina, due to her love of Nina Simone whose music populates much of the film, Maggie ends up experiencing a life she’s never had before with such simple things as shopping in a grocery store, dating, and falling in love. When her real life starts to intrude though as assignments begin to come in, Maggie gets more and more conflicted about it and starts to look for a way out. The arrival of Bob on the scene to meet her new suitor, an apartment manager/photographer named J.P. (Dermot Mulroney), only reinforces this as she realizes that she may not be able to handle the dual life she’s been given by the agency.

As a remake of a film that had come out only a few years prior, Point of No Return manages to be pretty faithful overall and is the kind of adaptation where it’s respectful of the source. Changes are obviously made with locations and settings, but by and large, it was fairly well put through the Hollywood process. Some may point to J.P.’s employment as a significant change but it still felt like they kept him a fairly common man without any serious aggression toward him. There are several scenes where he’s rather meek, including the first sexual encounter between the two where Maggie is the aggressor and has him essentially do what she wants. The entire Mardi Gras experience paints more of that picture as well.

Fonda manages to carry off the role rather well, moving from the wild child junkie to the woman who has found a normal life for the first time only to have it shattered by what she’s really signed up for. John Badham hasn’t been one of my favorite directors when it comes to action sequences and some of them come across poorly here, such as the first mission where someone fires a rocket at her and she lunges into a laundry shoot. Where Badham succeeds here is in the bulk of the actual assassination scenes. Maggie’s first mission works very well for the most part, from her outright kills to jumping from the stairs, to the later missions such as the Mardi Gras assassination. There’s a good tenseness to all of it which is ably aided by Hans Zimmer’s score. And infused into a lot of it is a good sense of sexuality that Fonda clearly exudes.

Some of the supporting cast is really fun to see here as well. Anne Bancroft fits perfectly in the role of the woman who helps the recruits to become more graceful as she deals with their social side. She has a real sense of class and elegance in an organization revolving around controlled killing and her presence adds a lot to it. Harvey Keitel’s relatively brief role as the cleaner in the final act adds a bit more coldness to the film, though in some ways he outdoes the agents themselves because he’s so straightforward and brutal while showing absolutely no emotion. He almost steals the show a bit because in a lot of ways he’s far more professional than most of the agents we see.

Warner’s Blu-ray release of this film gives us a good high-definition release but not a great one, mostly because of the source materials itself. The film looks good but it’s always had a decent amount of grain to it. Having seen this in the theater, on VHS, and as one of my first laserdiscs before getting a DVD version, the Blu-ray release does look the best I’ve seen it but it’s never going to be a great-looking movie. Warner defaults to the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation with the audio but for the most part, there isn’t all that much difference when it comes to the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that’s included. It’s definitely cleaner with the lossless but some of it simply feels like a difference in volume levels more than anything else. Sadly, the only extra we get with this release is the theatrical trailer which looks like a VHS dump in terms of the actual quality.

In Summary:
Point of No Return is a film that stood out from a lot of other action films at the time and before it in that there were few with women in the lead role. Bridget Fonda took to the role quite well and it was a really welcome entry in the slate of films she starred in. When it came to the gunplay though, she had the right look and got into the role. The film also brought younger audiences into contact with one of the best singers out there, Nina Simone, and gained her some new fans. Though not a film that will be largely remembered by most people, it’s turned into a decent little cult movie over the years and one that continues to do well with home video releases.

Grade: B+