Director - Richard Benjamin (My Stepmother is an Alien, The Wonderful World of Disney)
Starring - Sidney Poitier (The Jackal, Children of the Dust), River Phoenix (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Explorers), and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, Step Brothers)
Release Date - 1988
Genre - Drama
Tagline - "He went to be an all American kid and woke up the son of Russian spies"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)
Rating (out of 5):
I was born in 86 so I grew up during the final days of the Cold War. I hated hearing about it and I hated even more to learn about it. The thought of a potential war and the politics behind it bored me to death. However, things changed when I got older and found myself fascinated by it in college. I wrote several papers about JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was in college. I loved it and couldn't get enough of it. I then started to realize that a lot of my favorite films growing up was heavily influenced by the Cold War. Movies like Rocky IV, Red Dawn, and so many more use the Cold War as the foundation of their stories. One Cold War centered film from the 80s that I never watched was Little Nikita. This long forgotten gem starring River Phoenix was included in the 80's Beat box set. After finishing up The New Kids I decided this would be a fitting follow up.
The film follows teenager Jeff Grant (Phoenix) who has a problem with driving too fast but excels in school. He tries to get into Airforce Academy and meets FBI agent Roy Parmeeter (Poitier) who suspects Jeff is a spy. Upon digging deeper into his background he learns that Jeff's parents are Russian sleeper cells and Jeff is unaware of their past life until someone resurfaces and intends on using Jeff's parents to stop a rogue spy who is killing other sleeper cells.
I didn't really know what to expect from this film. I knew that it was deep in the Cold War scare of the 80s but I didn't know how political it would be or even what type of film it was. I was shocked when I saw that the film flirted with the line between drama, action, and thriller. It was very well put together and had a solid cast. The acting in this one is great. Sidney Poitier, Richard Jenkins and Richard Lynch are great. I've seen them in so many movies where they more than deliver. Their performances are always memorable and this film is no exception. However, I've never been a fan of River Phoenix. His performances were always dry with very little character development. Little Nikita is no exception. The story for this one is straight forward but does offer up a few little twists to keep the viewer guessing. Sadly, the way in which the movie was wrote and shot offers up very little replay value. Finally, the film does have a few death scenes but they are fairly week due to the film's non-horror nature. The effects are limited but do work in the gag's favor. Overall, Little Nikita is a solid Cold War era film that is entertaining. The movie is easily forgettable but still hits the spot if you are looking for something different to watch.