V.I. WARSHAWKSI - Content
From the July 30, 1991, Deseret News
V.I. WARSHAWKSI — Kathleen Turner, Jay O. Sanders, Charles Durning; rated R (violence, language).
Kathleen Turner is terrific in a feminist twist on Spade, Marlowe, Harper and all those other male private eyes who have generally dominated the mystery movie genre.
Unfortunately, her first film as novelist Sara Paretsky's tough Chicago detective doesn't live up to the sexy, nervy energy the actress brings to the role.
"V.I. Warshawski" does have its moments but too often settles for the cheap, sleazy joke and the detective movie cliche, without giving them any original or witty spin. Except, of course, that it's a woman who smells her dirty laundry on the floor before putting it on, winces at her refrigerator full of spoiled food, lives in a run-down tenement, picks up companions in bars and lets ethics keep her from taking rich clients who could solve her monetary woes.
Whatever life "V.I. Warshawski" has comes from Turner herself, aided by a barrage of snappy wisecracks. But the three (male) screenwriters who provide those wisecracks continually fall back into predictability as she tosses them at criminals, who then — surprise, surprise — proceed to beat her up.
The story has the divorced Warshawski picking up a former hockey star in a bar. When he's killed later the same night she is hired by his young daughter Kat to find the killer. Kat, of course, has a foul mouth right out of "The Bad News Bears."
Along the way, Warshawski finds herself in a series of confrontations with organized crime bosses and the lovable old police captain (Charles Durning) who was her father's best friend, and who wishes she'd go back to being a housewife.
There's also a boat chase, some gunplay, a lot of swearing and numerous vulgar jokes about the male anatomy.
Director Jeff Kanew ("Troop Beverly Hills," "Revenge of the Nerds"), who hasn't the slightest idea how to make this material any more interesting than it sounds, seems to think he's doing some kind of hot riff on the genre, but it's little more than a retread of a hundred other movies. There are even touches that will remind you of Chevy Chase's "Fletch" pictures, as when Vicki introduces herself with a Southern accent as "Jackie Stonewall," or when the music takes on a variation of the bouncy "Fletch" theme.
The characters here are underdeveloped, superficial stereotypes and the resolution of the mystery isn't very interesting.
Worst of all is the way young Kat is treated, swearing like a sailor; showing little grief after her father, who was her sole custodial parent, is murdered, and later — sorry if this is giving too much away — having her mother try to kill her.
While there are times when "V.I. Warshawski" is funny and enjoyable, laying the groundwork for what could be a solid series of films with Turner, too often it takes a mean-spirited, cruel turn that undermines its better aspects.
If there's a "Warshawski 2," let's hope a better director is hired to work with a more original script.
"V.I. Warshawski" is rated R for considerable profanity and vulgarity, with some graphic violence.