V.I. Warshawski (1991)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/17/13
Cast: Kathleen Turner

"Never underestimate a man's ability to underestimate a woman." Or Hollywood's inability to make a decent female action film. V.I. Warshawski (Kathleen Turner) is a private detective who is down on her luck until she meets a hunky ex-hockey player and falls for his charms. And then things really turn sour. When he ends up dead under mysterious circumstances, his precocious and foul-mouthed teenaged daughter hires Warshawski to find her father's killer. Warshawski stirs up enough trouble to get herself and the kid targeted by the mob, which also allows her to fit all of the pieces together.

This is a textbook example of Hollywood doing things wrong, and despite a strong and compelling performance by Ms. Turner, the film sadly led to the end of her promising career. In typical Hollywood fashion, someone decided to make a movie about a strong and sexy female detective. Great! Except they don't. Somewhere along the way, the studio executives get cold feet and decide that a film with a strong and independent female lead will alienate and intimidate audiences, so they turn it into a comedy and undermine the character's credibility with male chauvinism and snarky sexist humor. As a result, the main character is completely compromised and is forced to try and prove herself to the audience as well as to the rest of the cast, while being handicapped with a silly and demeaning script. If the characters in the film don't take her seriously, then how can we be expected to? And then the studio execs wonder why it bombs at the box office. "See? I told you we couldn't bank on a film with a female lead..."

The only shining light in this unfortunate mess is Kathleen Turner, who delivers a fabulous performance as the smart and sassy Warshawski. She believes in the film, even when the film doesn't believe in her. It's a shame that it left such a black eye on her career. The first half of the film is tedious and confusing, relying mostly on sexist gags and annoying hijinks. The second half fares much better, when V.I. goes on the offensive and starts busting heads. The action scenes are entertaining, although the fight scenes are woefully executed. Still, Ms. Turner gives it her all and doesn't lack intensity. It even looks like she performed a lot of her own stunts. There are also some very impressive blood effects that are worth noting. The dialog is pretty poor, but there are a few choice lines here and there. Throwing a kid into the mix is always a bad idea, and naturally the script plays to Warshawski's maternal instincts, which again marginalizes her character. Despite its bland execution and "made for TV" mentality, the film still manages to be somewhat entertaining. Just don't go into it expecting anything special.