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Monday, 28 August 2017

Retro Review: Blue Steel (1990)

Blue Steel
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Pena, Phillip Bosco, Richard Jenkins 
Genre: Action Thriller
U.S Box Office Gross: $8 million

Plot: A female rookie in the police force engages in a cat & mouse game with a pistol- wielding psychopath who becomes obsessed with her

'Vacuous & Half-Baked Crime Film With Shallow & Superficial Characters'

Originally shot and produced in 1989 and released worldwide in 1990 and with co-production by Oliver Stone, Blue Steel was co-written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow and is a cat-& mouse cop movie that after a potent start, it ultimately loses its way and despite some of the action and intensity this is all impeded by a poorly- written lead character and severely under-developed supporting and antagonist characters. 

Fresh out of the police academy, Megan Turner is a patrol cop when she finds herself involved in a robbery of a convenience store. After confronting the armed robber, she shoots him several times, with the revolver on the floor, which is then picked up by a stockbroker going by the name of Eugene. With Eugene leaving the scene of the crime with the weapon & lacking evidence, Megan finds herself suspended for a brief while. Eugene then obsessively begins a relationship with her, whilst he continues to kill his victims using bullets with Megan's name engraved on them. 

As I was watching this movie, it was near impossible for me to ignore the fact that she was a cop and yet at the same time, she could have so easily been the bad guy and yet it is the only by the virtue of her holding onto a position of responsibility and upholding the law, which she doesn't do as well, that lets Megan off the hook. 

I had little sympathy for Megan Turner and I was not particularly fond of that character: despite being absent-minded, I found her cold, almost emotionless and felt little to no attachment and empathy for her. & because of that, the film fails to make her sympathetic. She is just as- if no more guilty as the main killer and that by the end, she has shown disregard to the uniform and has no common sense, whatsoever. Megan even has the audacity to break protocol, as and when it suits her & I found most of the things she did to be irrational. Barely anything she said or did warrant sympathy and I just couldn't resonate with her; however, that doesn't excuse the violence being dished out to her, or of seeing her dad abuse her mother, whereas Ron Silver's antagonist & stock trader, Eugene is quintessentially a misogynist, slimy and a wacko as well. He doesn't much act but manages to hurl himself into every scene where he knarls, grinds his teeth and grins wickedly. 

Jamie Lee Curtis hasn't had as many ballsy and challenging roles in her career; I mostly remember her for Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies, but here in Blue Steel, she was... not bad. Even in the role of the protagonist that I am supposed to root for in this film; yet despite the performance, I literally came away from this film feeling nothing towards Megan. I was thinking at one point: ''Is Megan really as dumb and more naive and incompetent, despite being a rookie cop?''. 

What makes Blue Steel different from many other action cop based films is there is a slight intensity and that it operates more like a standard thriller. The shootings are bloodier and nastier and Bigelow succeeded in making them seem more gritty and less flashy.

The other performances by Clancy Brown as Megan's partner, Nick and Phillip Bosco were good, despite that their characters have barely any characterisation and depth, as the film centres on Megan and the killer. The killer's background is not touched upon & he appears out of nowhere as a witness to a killing in a convenience store that Megan was in and later on shoots random people. But even on that note, neither of these characters are fleshed out properly and I sensed that Megan had nothing left of her, as the film went on. The sex scene towards the end was badly- timed and should have occurred during the middle of the movie, rather than towards the end of it. Yet the stupid twist right towards the end of it feels tacked on and needless, and it was one that, in large, had killed it for me. 

This so-called feminist arc that Bigelow was trying to invoke fell somewhat flat: if you substitute Jamie Lee Curtis with a male actor operating as the male lead, this film would be no different to what it is, through its tone and aggression. 

It beggars belief also that Eugene had shot and killed Megan's best friend in front of her, and after being caught, no sooner is he then let loose on the streets - all because Megan didn't see his face when she was standing a few feet opposite Eugene and that she was too caught up in seeing her die. How is that logic? I just didn't buy into this part, because it is nonsense & sheer idiocy, as far as plot-holes go. 

I really wanted to get on board with this film, but Megan's actions and her mannerisms as a cop (and she was a terrible cop) really rubbed me up the wrong way and I just didn't register on Bigelow's level, as much as I wanted to. Only for the movie to redeem itself during the last act. 

Blue Steel could have operated as a movie where a female police officer rises up the ranks and overcomes sexism and misogyny and becoming a badass cop; instead, though she is flawed, it was almost as if every decision Megan made got worse as the film went on & that I grew increasingly restless and annoyed with her. Sure, this is Bigelow's attempt at making a feminist statement and saying that female characters are as strong and powerful as their male counterparts, but at the same time, she chooses to undermine this intent by making the protagonist so incompetent and clumsy. 

This film is beyond dumb.

Final Verdict:

After getting off to a strong start, it then descends into moments where one scratches their head, losing its momentum, only for it to just about make it to the finish line. Add to this underdeveloped and no depth characters, an incompetent protagonist character who I couldn't and didn't like, Blue Steel is actually a wasted opportunity by Kathryn Bigelow and it's a bit of a shame as I do admire some of her other films such as Strange Days

Cited as the last movie she has written and is credited as the co-writer, Blue Steel's premise and synopsis sound intriguing on paper, far more so than its actual execution, which is a very underwhelming as this is also marred by its scripting flaws and silly characterizations that blight this movie.

A vacuous and sub-standard offering from Bigelow, for a film where I didn't really root for Jamie Lee Curtis's hero character, it's forgettable for me and doesn't add up to much. Alas, I was extremely disappointed.

*score last updated: 1 September, 2017*



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