Blue Steel (1989) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Pena, Richard Jenkins and Louise Fletcher.
Directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow, Blue Steel is an edgy cop-thriller starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Megan Turner, a rookie NYPD officer who attracts the attention of a psychopath after he witnesses her using lethal force during an armed robbery.
Visually, Bigelow and cinematographer Amir Mokri create a sense of hostile atmosphere through stylish lighting and compositions, which subtly reinforces the feeling of an NYPD opposed to a female cop in its ranks.
A better film than the 5.6 IMDb user rating would have you believe, Bigelow constructs a gritty, night-time thriller embellished with neon signs and buckets of rain. Jamie Lee Curtis carries the film beautifully, bringing a rare blend of toughness, vulnerability, sexuality and intelligence as she builds her character despite the insistence of the narrative to surge forward into by-the-numbers territory. Indeed, as it unravels, the plot becomes increasingly formulaic (and sometimes silly) as the obligatory chases and face-off’s ensue.
The bunny-boiler of the piece is Ron Silver, a Wall Street trader losing a battle with sanity. Although his part of the plot is less interesting than time spent building Lee Curtis’ character, he does acquit himself well – channelling a little Travis Bickle meets Alex Forrest, but with a suit and tie in-place of a Mohican and an ’80’s perm.
There is a domestic violence subtext, regarding Lee Curtis’ parents, which is never satisfyingly resolved – perhaps another aspect of the script that got sidelined in favour of steaming ahead with the requirements and responsibilities of being a ‘tense Hollywood thriller‘.
While the performances are very good, there remains a feeling that a better film got away, somehow. Perhaps that film doesn’t involve a crazed lunatic and focuses solely on Lee Curtis’ character and her life both in and outside of the NYPD. In the end, Blue Steel is a good film that could have been a great one. 3/5