Parillaud is sensational in Nikita, a female Leon, perfectly cast as an ethical vampire. She delivers physical confidence in her superhuman abilities, brash nudity, disarming Gallic sexiness, only hampered by her faltering English, which sounds really weird when she goes all deep-voiced and plasma-hungry. Despite her vampire abilities, she sometimes resorts to using a gun, presumably to trade off the Nikita role.
But I'm not telling you the plot. The story starts twice over as the two main characters are introduced before they meet. One is Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia), an undercover cop trying to bring down a Pittsburgh crime boss (Robert Loggia). He risks blowing his cover after a string of murders includes his police partner.
But these aren't mob hits, but vampire meals, with night stalker Marie (Parillaud) ethically picking victims who are murderous criminals. Mistaking Joe for a member of the mob, she only spares him because he's cute. One of her rules being "don't play with the food". But her rules misfire when the mob starts turning vampire. If they all get superhuman, nothing will stop them taking over the city...
The story has its own rules about vampirism, their powers, and how they die. This mythos might annoy purists, but hey, Landis was brought up on the Universal and Hammer horrors, and they changed the rules every movie. We're also in Pittsburgh - there's a clue.
From nearly the first scene, Robert Loggia starts to dominate the film, his two-faced kingpin goes from human monster to inhuman, in a great horror performance. While I'm sure he was offered a lot of genre work after this, he's remained with characters that are psychologically and physically terrifying, rooted in reality. His Mr Eddy in David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) is another example of extremely powerful performances, again as a psychotic mobster.
As Loggia's lawyer is an actor close to Landis' heart, Don Rickles. Currently known as the voice of Toy Story's Mr Potato Head, Rickles is better known as a comedian, one of America's maestros of stand-up. Landis first worked with him way back on Kelly's Heroes (1970) when he was a young production assistant. In 2007, Landis even made a documentary about Rickles, Mr Warmth, centring around the first ever filming of his renowned Vegas act.