V.I. Warshawski (1991)

JEFF KANEW

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 1991. , , . Screen story by , Screenplay by Edward Taylor, , , based on the novels by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by , .

An attempt was made to bring Sara Paretsky’s popular detective novels to the big screen, but the series was scrapped when the first film failed to ignite at the box office. A shame that the opportunity was missed to not only give the luminous star quality of Kathleen Turner, who is both glamorous and credible at the same time, her own franchise but to create a female-led series in the popular genre of murder mysteries. The main failure is the unimaginative script and leaden direction by Jeff Kanew, who guides Turner’s Warshawski through a series of dull situations that begin when she picks up a hot ex-hockey player named “Boom Boom” (played by ) outside a bar but calls it a night before spending the evening with him. He shows up at her place later anyway, toting a pre-teen girl named Kat and asking her to watch her while he goes to an important meeting having to do with a family inheritance. She reluctantly agrees, then when Kat runs away to be with her father, Warshawski chases her down to the marina where it turns out Boom Boom has been killed in an accidental explosion.  She knows it was no accident and keeps Kat close as she begins to investigate the dead man’s family connections, their upcoming business dealings and ties to political corruption. Flat cinematography does nothing for the action sequences, but neither does the fact that the filmmakers are so terrified that audiences won’t accept a serious female lead in the genre that they often pull back on letting her really take on anything dangerous, letting her get beat up by with a smug grin on her face but “softening” her up with her young, invented sidekick: the character of Kat is not in the original novel, Deadlock, that the script is based on, and it feels like she has been given the familiar cinematic maternal relationship to avoid putting anyone off with this otherwise unfeminine character.  That they ever expected a series to succeed when those making it didn’t have any faith in it is ridiculous, and the compromises all pile up to a film that has its moments but is a pale shade of what it should have been.

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