Blue Steel

Blue Steel


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The boys have had it all their own way for so long now that another tight-arsed, gut-churning, foul-mouthed street thriller isn't going to change the world. What about a soft-buttocked, nipple-firm, wet-lipped copette drama instead?

Kathryn Bigelow is a sorcerer's apprentice. She pretends she's doing one thing and then does another. Her first movie, Near Dark, was supposed to be a tooth-in-cheek Mid-Western modern vampire trick-or-treat. In fact, it was the closest thing to a rebel hero horror flick since Dennis Hopper had his face blown away in the closing reel of Easy Rider.

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She's a stylist, with David Lynch's single-minded purpose, using slow motion where no serious director would touch it. Hollywood howls for repetition. Bigelow offers sexual obsession, daubed in serial killer colours.

Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) has a strong will, but no back-up. She wants to be a cop because she cares about things that hurt people, like drugs and poverty and violence.

"I like to slam people's heads up against walls," she says, when asked. It's a joke. No-one gets it.

Her father won't talk to her.

"My daughter a cop!" he spits.

Her friendships are few.

Megan is proud and nervous. She's done the training. She wants to be the best, but is still vulnerable, still hurt by this male-dominated, rule-rigid, misogynist locker room mentality.

On her first day, she kills a man. He's holding up the checkout clerk at a supermarket and he has a gun. Afterwards, the gun can't be found and she's suspended.

This is Bigelow's twist. The film is not, and never was, Miss Serpico. It's not even about police work. That's the camouflage. It's about the gun and what happens to it and who picks it up. It's Hitchcock with hand grenades, Psycho on the run.

Eugene (Ron Silver) picks it up. He's a trader on the stock exchange, a short, swarthy, bearded man with intense, piercing eyes and a strange, compulsive physical presence. The gun gives him power.

"Death is the greatest kick of all," he says. "That's why they keep it for last."

He becomes infatuated with Megan, the memory of her at the supermarket, holding her pistol straight, with that two-handed grip, screaming at the thief, firing again and again. In his mind, she transforms into an angel of destruction and, by rights, his partner and protector, his death soul lover.

He woos and seduces her, while shooting strangers in the street with bullets that have her name scratched on their shell casings. His madness is like a flood. He can't control it and doesn't know anymore what evil brilliance poisons him.

Dirty Harry's theme of a crazy gunman after a tough cop is given a sexual thrust that stimulates dubious sado masochistic motivations. Bigelow's romance with violence cannot be ignored, not her loving reverence to its machinery. Even New York, in its dripping dank decay, has an energy that makes beauty dangerous.

Silver's performance is a magnificent, chilling accomplishment. He has the unctuous grace of a hammerhead and the enraged fury of a great white. Curtis responds with the finest acting of her career, fleshing the wounds of a thousand rookie roles and finding true feeling beneath the skin of fear.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2001
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A rookie girl cop is stalked by crazed killer in the dank streets of New York.
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Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writer: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Pena, Louise Fletcher, Philip Bosco

Year: 1990

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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