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SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the better film noirs during that genre’s post-‘Body Heat’ revival in the 1980s, is this largely forgotten little gem, which was a box-office disappointment, despite largely favorable reviews. But now it’s been given new life by The Shout! Factory with a gorgeous Blu-ray upgrade, enhancing the gorgeous visuals by director Ridley Scott and cinematographer Steven Poster. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 11, 1987.

Director Ridley Scott, whose credits include the first “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and last year’s failed “Legend,” is a master of overkill. He’s so technically impressive in his very artistic work that he tends to let the look overwhelm character and story.

Certainly that applies to some degree to “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the latest in a recent spate of cop-thrillers to hit local theaters — especially when the organ music that accompanies a cop from Queen’s introduction to a fancy Manhattan apartment makes it sound like he’s entering the Sistine Chapel, or when smoky New York streets glisten and bright lights and colors flash.

But Scott has apparently learned a lesson along the way and his storytelling ability has improved remarkably. He manages to subdue those technical instincts throughout most of “Someone to Watch Over Me” so that his characters are in the forefront.

And the story here is certainly familiar, with overtones that bring to mind “Stakeout,” “The Big Easy” and even “Lethal Weapon.” But what Scott and his actors do with that story is rather special — most of the way.

Tom Berenger, recently nominated for an Oscar as the scarfaced sergeant in “Platoon,” plays a street cop recently promoted to detective. He’s a happily married family man whose wife (Lorraine Bracco) is a former cop, and she’s one tough cookie herself. (Their son suffers a bit from movie-child precociousness.)

One of Berenger’s first assignments is to protect a murder witness (Mimi Rogers), so the killer, a total psycho with mobster ties, won’t be able to prevent her from testifying.

     

Tom Berenger, left, Jerry Orbach, John Rubinstein, Mimi Rogers, 'Someone to Watch Over Me'

Berenger and a couple of other cops trade shifts as they watch her apartment — a very swanky place that begins to make Berenger feel as though he’s been living in a slum.

As you might suspect, Berenger and Rogers find themselves drawn to each other, though their class difference is distinct. And soon they are embroiled in an affair. Familiar, yes?

What gives “Someone” its edge, however, is that Berenger feels guilty — really guilty. And his wife, when she finds out, is not about to let any of that guilt let up.

One of the things that makes this movie most unusual is that Berenger’s wife, Bracco, is almost as prominent a force in the film as Rogers. And for my money, Bracco runs away with the film — a strident, tough-minded woman who isn’t about to compromise what she has or what she wants to accommodate her husband’s wandering eye.

But Berenger isn’t really the wandering type, and that’s what this movie’s really about. He is suffering during this affair, but at the same time he is drawn like a moth to a flame, no idle metaphor.

     

Lorraine Bracco, Tom Berenger, 'Someone to Watch Over Me'

In the end, as with many of these kinds of movies, “Someone to Watch Over Me” really goes haywire, requiring the psycho killer to lose all control and do really stupid things — almost as stupid as the cops who ultimately track him down. The film’s explosive climax is extremely ludicrous and almost ruins the movie.

This isn’t the first movie to come along this season that has plenty going for it and then tosses much of it away in the final scenes — and it’s difficult for a critic to write about those moments that require the harshest criticism without giving too much of the ending away.

So I will not do so, except to say that the finale here looks like another boardroom decision. Can’t you hear the studio executives saying, “OK, so you sympathize with the characters, but where’s the shootout?”

Most of the way, though, “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a much more satisfying exploration of adultery and the feelings of the people involved on all sides than “Fatal Attraction” — and though it will doubtless not have near the draw of that picture, one hopes it will find its audience.

As mentioned, Bracco, Berenger and Rogers are all fine, and there are several supporting players who also do quite well. And director Scott is to be congratulated for pulling those excellent performances from his cast. And for allowing the story to control most of the film.

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is rated R for violence, profanity and sex.