Well Gang, it’s been too long since I’ve written an actual article. I was nudged out of semi-retirement by a blogathon hosted by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews Films, TV, Books and more and Rebecca from Taking Up Room. It is called an Odd or Even Blogathon. I chose a movie from an odd year and one from an even year, and the hosts chose which one to cover. Little Nikita was on my mind due to the recent passing of the legendary Sidney Poitier. I remember renting this not long after it came out on video, and I loved it. Let’s see if it holds up.
Runtime 1hr 38min
Released March 18, 1988
Synopsis: An F.B.I. Agent works to uncover an All-American family as Soviet sleeper Agents, and gets caught up in friendship with their unaware son. – imdb
Last time I had seen this? Probably not since the early ’90s.
The movie opens with a parade. Jeff’s (River Phoenix) parents own a successful garden center, and have a float in the parade. Jeff’s father is anxiously waiting for Jeff to show up in time. We are shown that Jeff is a hyperactive kid as he comes flying in on his bike, barely in time for him to change clothes. His parents are in Civil War area outfits, and Jeff comes out stylin’ like “he’s ready for the club”. The mother informs the father that he is dressing to impress a girl.
Next we see Jeff’s friends checking out military recruitment booths at the parade
Cut to…a mysterious man walking into an Internal Revenue Service office. Never a good sign. A murder occurs. Dundundun.
Welcome to the Russian Embassy. There is a sign in front that says Russian Embassy. But, to bring the point home, there are Russian dudes watching television with Mikhail Gorbachev appearing on the television screen, making me long for the ’80s even more. The young agents are assigning an older distinguished Russian gentleman by the name of Konstantin Karpov (Richard Bradford) to go to San Diego to apprehend Scuba (Richard Lynch), who is going around killing agents, just as we saw in the previous scene.
Now we see the legendary Sidney Poitier as FBI agent, Roy Parmenter. You can tell he’s a hard worker because he is the first one in the office. We learn that this double-agent Scuba had killed Roy’s partner 20 years earlier, and Roy is not too happy that this guy is still out there killing people. Roy is reviewing Air Force applications that he received from the parade booth. Apparently, Jeff’s parents were born and died in the 1800s in Spokane, Washington. Well that makes no sense! Either they have stolen identities, or they time travelled from the past – which is entirely possible after seeing how they were dressed in the opening scene! But they opened a garden shop in San Diego in 1968. In case Roy couldn’t figure it out, the computer let him know that the fact that they died in 1891 and there is activity from 1968, does not compute.
Jeff, dressed up in an ’80s prep school suit, arrives at an Air Force center for an interview. He is brought to an office where he is greeted by Roy. During the interview, Roy learns that Jeff’s parents don’t know that he applied for the Air Force Academy.
Scuba kills another agent.
The bureau chief secretly puts Roy on the case to take down Scuba.
Roy puts the the clues together that Jeff’s parents are secret agents, and are likely a target of Scuba’s.
Roy looks into the Grant family, who appear to have ideal lives. In the meantime the Grants get a coded message, confirming to the audience that they are indeed a sleeper cell.
Yet another body turns up. The Russians are dwindling, and pretty soon it’s going to be the Grants’ turn. But not if Roy can help it. He buys a house across the street from the Grants, while he and Jeff pretend to not know each other. Secrets all around!
Scuba surprises Karpov in the shower. No, not like that! And not completely Norman Bates style either. He just informed Karpov that he wants $200,000, then he’ll stop killing agents. Oh, BTW, there are only 2 agents left.
After a one-on-one basketball game, Roy tells Jeff that his parents are KGB agents. Roy gives Jeff all the details, and of course Jeff is skeptical. That is until he gets home, looks in the window, and sees his parents on the couch watching Newhart. Then he freaks out, and is on edge. He has a meltdown in the morning and goes off on them, then feels bad.
While on a boat tour, Scuba kills Karpov’s assistant who told Scuba that there was $200,000 in a locker at the pier. The tour ended, and the last one on the boat was Karpov’s assistant. The tour guide tried to tell him the tour was over and that he didn’t have to go home, but he can’t stay there. However, he wasn’t going anywhere except the morgue. Yet another Scuba victim. And the locker key was in the pool of blood.
At Roy’s house, he slams pictures of the dead bodies down in front of Jeff as if he was Andy Sipowicz or Hank Voight, or any other gumshoe hardnose cop. And he showed Jeff his parent’s pictures to give dramatic effect that Jeff’s parents were the last ones left on Scuba’s hit list. He want Jeff to spy on his parents, since he can’t arrest them since they’ve done nothing wrong. But Jeff ain’t no stinkin’ rat! Then you can identify them in the morgue, bitch!
Meanwhile, the Grants are at an opera when they are joined by Karpov. Karpov wants them to do a job. But, it’s been 20 years, and they don’t wanna. But, since it’s been so long, they have been off the radar, which makes them perfect for the job. To make matters worse for them, the opera they are at is Sleeping Beauty. This makes it convenient to make the perfect analogy that the princess pricks her finger, and falls asleep for years…until she is awakened by a handsome prince. I think he was comparing himself to a handsome prince. Oh why couldn’t they have picked a different show like Cinderella, where she has a wonderful night…until she turns back into herself at midnight. Nevermind. Or maybe Pinnochio…whiiich is about a liar. Dammit Disney!!!While this is going on, Jeff is back home doing some digging, and finds the family’s Russian papers. Karpov wants them to drop the money for Scuba. He gives them little choice as he shows them a picture of Jeff, basically a threat that he will do something to him if they don’t play along.
Jeff bursts into Roy’s bedroom, interrupting the nookie Roy was getting from Jeff’s guidance counselor. Roy and Jeff meet up at a restaurant and have a conversation about Jeff’s parents with ends with Jeff storming off mad at the world (aka a normal teenager).
The Grants get home, and debate whether they should tell Jeff the truth or not. It’s all for nothing as Jeff gets home and confronts them.
The phone rings and it is Karpov on the other line saying now is the time. Jeff is freaking out, and runs in to Roy’s house going through all the rooms. Roy isn’t there, however Karpov is. He’s sitting in the dark like a creeper, with the phone in one hand and a gun in the other. There must be no locks on the doors since everybody seems to come in and out at will! Jeff, who now knows his real name s Nikita, finally gets into the living room, and Karpov turns the light on, revealing himself. He now has a hostage.
Jeff bums a Russian cigarette from Karpov. He leaves it in Roy’s bathroom before they leave. Roy comes in, sees the cigarette, then runs across the street to help the Grants, but they want none of it. Roy tells them it’s a trap. Karpov is using them to get to Scuba. If Scuba doesn’t like what’s going on, they’re all dead. But, they take off on him. Luckily, Roy thought ahead and had the good ole reel-to-reel recorder hidden a cabinet. He played it back and heard what was going on and learned where the dropoff was supposed to be.
We are at a pier, where the Grants are brining the money in a mini cooler. And it appears that Scuba’s biggest crime in the film is wearing sandals with jeans. Everything gets out of control when Scuba sees Karpov, who is pulling a gun out ready to shoot him. Jeff stops Karpov. Scuba gets pissed and is going to stab Jeff’s father, but Roy shoots, and sends Scuba running. Roy takes chase. In the meantime, Scuba accidentally drops the cooler. Then these rando people walk by and just take it! Who the fuck does that?!?! They don’t even know what’s in there!
Roy and Scuba battle it out in an underwhelming fight. Meanwhile, Karpov and Jeff took off in one car, and the Grants in another.
Now it is daylight, and we are at the Mexican border. Karpov forces Jeff on a trolley with him. They Grants arrive just after the trolley left, and they tried chasing down the trolley. They catch up with the trolley at a trolley stop, and get on. Now they are all together on the trolley. Oh, wait a minute! Roy gets on the trolley, holding Scuba at gunpoint. Now this is a party! We are once again reminded that Scuba killed Roy’s partner. But, there is a prisoner exchange as Roy gives up Scuba and Karpov gives up Jeff.
The whole gang gets off the last stop, and walk towards the Mexican border when somebody bumps into Karpov, and all hell breaks loose as Scuba grabs Jeff, and tries to throw him off an overpass. But, the father comes to the rescue. After a scuffle, Roy and Karpov both get a clean shot at Scuba. Karpov’s people at the border take over and get Scuba through and toss him in their car. Border Patrol seems pretty lax. Karpov and Roy say their goodbyes. We see the kids who swiped the money-filled cooler crossing the border into Mexico.
Does the movie stand the test of time? That would be a pretty hard no. While things are getting heated back up with Russia these days, I believe espionage is much different in this digital age. There was also the scene where Roy was interviewing Jeff for Air Force recruitment, and making sure he liked girls. At first, I was getting a major creepy-pedo vibe. Then I remembered that at the time, gay people weren’t allowed in the military. I believe I was asked the same thing when I joined the Navy. It just seems so odd and archaic.
Worth the Return? This is a fine ’80s movie to check out. I wouldn’t go rush to see it, but it’s not awful either. Plus, it is great to see both Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix. They are both fantastic, and make the movie worth watching. This movie would have been at a lower level without them.
Rating Three Russian Cigarettes (out of 5)