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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Retro Review: V.I Warschawski (1991)

V.I Warschawski 
Directed by Jeff Kanew
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Jay O' Sanders, Charles Durning, Angela Goethals, Nancy Paul
Estimated Worldwide Gross: $21,111,825

Plot: A tough-talking, fiercely independent, sexy P.I  with a weakness for pretty shoes, Warschawski is armed with brains and sex appeal. When pushed to the edge, Warschawski can play hardball with the Windy City's most wanted, including a cold-blooded killer who has murdered Boom Boom Grayfalk, an ex- hockey player who has caught her eye. A just cause is reason enough for Warshawski to take on a new case, & when Boom Boom's 13- yr- old daughter, Kat, retains the detective to ferret out her father's killer, V.I uncovers a startling conspiracy for murder and money. 

'Underwhelming Detective Romp With Little Substance'

When V.I Warschawski - the V standing for Vicki, her real name - meets and dates a former hockey player, he ends up hiring her to look after his daughter, Kat when he goes to take care of other business. With her father later found dead, the search is on to find the culprit responsible for Boom Boom Grayfalk's murder. 

In a way, this B-rated fare of a film was sort of, watchable in places. I have not read any of Sara Paretsky's novels of the V.I series, but in regards to some of the comments from those who have read them and have echoed their disappointments in this film, I do understand how let down they must've felt. 

V.I Warshawski comes across as a by-product of the late 1980s than the early 1990s and cited as the downfall of Kathleen Turner's career, during a time where she was riding high during the 1980s with hits like Romancing The Stone and Body Heat

It is too bad the film feels more like a Lifetime, made-for-TV movie of the week, and thus, becomes nothing more than a detective show in a similar vein to Columbo and various other shows of the like. Plus, V.I Warshawski all but ended Turner's reign as a movie actress and her follow-up efforts have been dire. The direction here is pretty much basic as far as it goes and the narrative is formulaic and nothing that we haven't seen before; with a borderline story and flat direction, it is too predictable that the material doesn't provide much for the actors to work with. As for the last third of the film, it did become a little anti-climatic and wasn't as pulsating as I expected it to be. There were a few gunshots here and there, but it would have been nice to see V.I wrestling with or be it get into a real brawl-like battle with Kat's mother, just to make it more exciting to watch. But the performances were solid yet nothing special. 

V.I Warshawski is a detective version of Adventures in Babysitting, directed Jeff Kanew whose previous credits include Revenge of the Nerds, Troop of Beverly Hills - which are hardly comedy greats themselves. 

Angela Goethals as the teen with a big mouth just wound me up, however. I couldn't stand that character: she was too annoying for my liking, self-absorbed and had irked me so much. She was one of those typically irritating child characters, who thinks and acts as they are above everything and everyone else & knows better when they don't. Some of the words she uttered made me cringe and curl up into a ball. I would have thought that given Kat had lost her father, she would loosen up a bit and try to be more cooperative, understanding and be a bit kinder but that wasn't the case. Since her opening lines consisted usage of a curse word, I always sensed she'd be quite a handful. Whenever she'd opened her mouth, I had always dreaded what came out of it. She even used the F-word a few times in this film, as if by saying it a few times makes her more of a grown-up, when she isn't and wasn't. Kat was such a foul-mouthed kid, no wonder her mother had a few screws loose too - she was a mess herself, and Kat herself hated her. But If I was V.I, I would have ditched the girl sooner than have her tag along for the ride. I groaned when Kat became her partner. 

The plot and the story are predictable as it sounds, yet the main protagonist is a very credible character who is incredibly sassy, has lots of charisma and her accomplice and ex-boyfriend, the journalist often sleazy -yet somewhat likeable, Murray (Jay O' Sanders) was another highlight. Their love/hate relationship - that's love as in Murray is still smitten with V.I and hate towards Murray by V.I - is part and parcel of the movie that gets addressed throughout the film, which isn't normally the case in the novels, however. There was one scene where the pair spends the night with each other, which we don't see. I think the film could have benefited from having a few more intimate moments, particularly between V.I and Murray and further delving into their relationships, personalities and lives, as well as incorporating a 'will they/ will they not' love plot. Just to give the film something else to concentrate on, besides the main story arc. 

I also liked some of the dialogue; humorous at times, as well as sharp. But it lacks drama in places and isn't as serious enough as it should have been. The action isn't all that great, the tension and menace just weren't there & the antagonists just weren't believable, nor menacing and evil enough to be taken seriously. Rather they came off as cartoon caricatures. The murder case itself is so lightweight and uninspired, it's like something out of Columbo or some other TV detective series. V.I Warshawski would have been better off by basing it on the entire series, as opposed to taking bits and pieces from the books and throw them in together and tie it to a lacklustre story. 

She also possesses some rather impressive martial arts abilities too. V.I is tough as nails - but she is tough and goes in with a no-nonsense, yet tough love approach to her way of fighting crime. Other than that, Kathleen Turner gives a good performance that is better than the script. 

At under 90 mins, the story speeds by without leaving much of the desired effect on the audience. 

Final Verdict: 

V.I Warshawski is not the Hollywood blockbuster it ought to have been and some parts of the film could do with a few more improvements (in addition to getting rid of the teenage girl). It is more of a B-movie murder-mystery than a triple-A cop action affair and moments are few & far between.

Kathleen as V.I Warshawski and Jay as Murray made V.I Warshawski a tad watchable for me over the rest of the cast. 

Overall, the film itself relies too much on cliches, which become so obvious when you sit through it and is a little too predictable and feels underwhelming.


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