Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bigelow Fest: Blue Steel

At it’s core Blue Steel has a pretty damn irresistible premise. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a cop who has to shoot Tom Sizemore (Proving he can bring more crazy to a movie in ten minutes then most can bring in an entire runtime) in the line of duty.

A witness to the event, steals Sizemore’s gun, making it look like Curtis shot an unarmed man, and develops a bizarre obsession with her. Silver runs around the city doing his best Son Of Sam impersonation and simultaneously begins to insinuate himself into Curtis’s life.

Basically it’s about a female cop who has to stop someone who really wants to be shot by a female cop. This poses a problem to say the least. Its the kind of pulpy premise Sam Fuller would come up with and its too bad Bigelow doesn't do more with it. Blue Steel is a lot more reserved then most of Bigelow’s work, which is a relative statement sure, but none the less. It plays at a slow burn, more like an old school noir then her patented rush of insanity (Although there is plenty of that as well, not to worry).

The film’s got a good cast backing her up including Clancy Brown in a rare non villain or Mr. Crabbs related roll, and Richard Jenkins pre Coen Brothers.

This was the first film made by Bigelow, and writing partner at the time Eric Red that wasn’t technically exploitation (After Near Dark and the little scene Willem Dafoe as a Biker movie Loveless). A lot of what makes Blue Steel interesting to watch is how Bigelow tries and often fails to walk that tightrope, reigning in her excessive tendencies only to have them burst out at all sorts of awkward and interesting moments.

Blue Steel has its problems, mostly do to its aforementioned struggles in tone. It has no idea whether it wants to be a whackadoo exploitation movie, or a regular cop drama. As a result the films schizoid and sometimes plays, as in the scenes where the psychos lawyers keep getting him off on technicalities no matter how blatant his guilt, like a parody of 80’s cop movies.

Still everytime you think the films made one misstep too many, it counters with a tense setpiece, or a bit of smart writing, character work, or style and you convince yourself to give it another shot (In that sense it almost serves as a good microcosm for Bigelow’s career.)

Consummate scumbag Ron Silver plays the obsessed lunatic. It’s a great example of less is more, there’s no real scenery chewing (Well not an inoridinate amount anyway, the scene where he rolls around in a woman’s blood in central park is a bit much.), just measured irrationality, no big explanation of why he’s off his rocker. For all we know he was some normal guy whose just been warped by this encounter. Curtis matches him, clearly relishing a good role, even if she was a little to old at this point to play an inexperienced rookie. Still on the whole, Blue Steel is a stylish, tense thriller made for adults. There’s not a lot of those around.

1 comment:

Troy Olson said...

When you say they don't make them like this anymore, you aren't kidding -- a true film of the 80's. But you hit the nail on the head in regards to the uneven tone -- it likely would have been better heading off to pure exploitation land.

Still, Silver's performance is fun. I always liked him, even in stuff like TIMECOP, as he just played the oily, slimy/creepy guy with a beard to perfection