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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Retro Review: Cat Chaser (1989)

Cat Chaser
Cast: Peter Weller, Kelly McGillis, Charles Durning, Tomas Milian
Genre: Noir Thriller

Plot: A Miami hotel owner finds himself in danger when he becomes romantically involved with the wife of a deposed general from the Dominican Republic

'Curious - Yet Flawed Thriller, Despite the Troublesome Post-Production' 

Produced at a time where parent company Vestron was about to go bankrupt, this film was an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, which was then taken out of Abel Ferrera's hands, as well as a needless voiceover was added to the film, consigned this thriller to Z-list straight to DVD hell. But that was not the end to all its woes: Kelly McGillis was rather vocal of her unhappy time during the shooting and fell out with the director, Ferrera and fellow actor, Peter Weller. The sequence where she was forced to strip naked - then having a gun stuck in-between her legs, which was eventually edited out, makes you wonder if Ferrera did cross the line. Though it is suggested that Cat Chaser was the film that made Kelly McGillis shave her head and stopped acting for almost a decade after this film came out, by putting aside all of the troublesome, behind-the-scenes talk and a clash involving McGillis and the director, I actually thought Cat Chaser was, in a way, enjoyable - if not perfect. 

By taking a look at the poster, it's assumed that this would be an erotic thriller, and though it has one love scene and two other scenes with Kelly McGillis naked, as well as a male full-frontal nudity murder scene, Cat Chaser operates more like a straight-up noir thriller. 

Peter Weller is George Moran: a motel owner, pool cleaner and former marine now based in the Dominican Republic, who is in search of Luci Palma: the woman who saved his life and gave George the moniker of 'Cat Chaser', but of whom finds himself embroiled in a love affair with the wife named Mary, played by Kelly McGillis, of a Dominican Republic despot general. With that in mind, a game of cat & mouse develops between Mary and George against the general himself. Mary harbours feelings towards George and when they get together, they have a steamy fling. 

One thing Cat Chaser could have done without is the cumbersome voiceover: the narrated voiceover was not necessary to have in this film. The viewer could easily follow the story and plot, without having to be inundated with the voiceover playing in the background. & plus, it took away from the intensity and grittiness that a film of this nature could've done more with. 

As I've said in my review of The Adventures of Buckeroo Banzai, Peter Weller has shown on several occasions that he is capable of acting without being stoic and shows his range; even in a plot that could use a bit more work. He also looks terrific here and he is one of those actors that can make an obscure film or premise work and with him, he has that watchability presence about him. Once again, he gives an underrated turn and manages to give a few bad guys a good beating along the way, as well; he practically saves this movie. By taking Weller away, Cat Chaser would be nowhere as watchable.

Cat Chaser's noir style works well, although the story wasn't entirely engrossing and the execution of it does lend itself to be a tad simplistic. But the film does manage to turn the screw a few times and when it does so, it becomes sort of watchable. There is also a rather unflattering full-frontal male nudity shower scene involving the despot general, later on.

The remaining performances hold up well: Kelly McGillis shines, Charles Durning is the ex-cop and two-faced, general's right-hand man who double-crosses George. 

Some of the edits and re-cuts made in the film hurt the actual lack of resolution to George's affair with Mary, right after they slept with each other. Because of that, it feels off. The original erotic love scene between George and Mary appears in the director's cut version of Cat Chaser, which is supposedly better than the theatrical release; with that, this love scene develops a real intimacy between the pairing that makes the risks that occur in the film to be a lot more believable. Although that edited love scene in the version that I saw was pretty hot, and Kelly McGillis and Peter Weller oozed that intimate passion. Even if it was reported that they did not get on well with each other, onset of the shooting. Technically, the film is flawed, what with the cuts and edits being made, and though I quite like his take on the noir side of things, with regards to the dark undertone to this films, sometimes, Abel Ferrara needs to go all out and not hold back. Though clearly, it doesn't help with the production company or be it the MPAA heavily censoring out parts of the film. 

During a 3- hour raw uncut of Cat Chaser, which was screened back in 2014 at the Analogy Film Archives, the director Abel Ferrara, as well as Peter Weller and others involved stated their unhappiness with the released version of the film in cinemas and in viewing it, I could definitely understand their complaints. 

But Cat Chaser, despite the ambiguous title, still manages to be somewhat watchable, mainly thanks to Peter Weller; even if the thrills weren't always there. 

Final Verdict:

Decent film but come to the halfway point, it started to lose my interest, only for the third act to redeem things for me. Cat Chaser gets crapped on by a lot of people and it is another of Abel Ferrera's attempts of protagonist and antagonist characters struggling in hostile surroundings and within darker subtexts. Other films of his include 1992's Bad Lieutenant and 1984's Fear City- the latter of which I enjoyed immensely.  

Cat Chaser is an unintentionally and intensely curious thriller and I think that had I had access to the uncut version of this film, I'd have enjoyed that one even more than the theatrical version. The screenplay didn't quite live up to Abel Ferrera's approach, and whilst it could do with a few more improvements or additions, it is Peter Weller's performance here that sells it for me. 

All in all, based on the theatrical release, Cat Chaser isn't too bad that despite its flaws & imperfections which could have been easily ironed out, and the troublesome production and post-production stories behind it, for me anyway, it's not quite that shabby and bad as a film as many others have stated. 


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