This is one film that it has taken me an age to get around to watching. I remember attempting it years ago when it was first playing on Channel 4 in the UK as they were making a bit of a fuss about it. On that occasion I don’t think I managed it for one reason or another, since then it has sat in my mind as one to watch. Honestly, this fuss was the only fuss I was aware of as Blue Steel seems to have disappeared from view and recognition. Frequently we see lists of Jamie Lee Curtis’ best films and it has always confused me that this was rarely mentioned, especially as it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Blue Steel is relatively okay, it walks a tight line between cop thriller and psychological drama. The problem being, that it never settles as either and therefore does not excel at either. There is a dash of action here and there, however, the action is realistic and not designed for thrills. This isn’t Jamie Lee Curtis’ version of Martin Riggs or John McClane.
Curtis plays Megan, a rookie cop who is thrown into the limelight following the attempted robbery of a supermarket (convenience store) in New York by a young Tom Sizemore. The weapon used by Sizemore disappears from the scene, doubt is cast over Curtis’ handling of the situation and excess use of her firearm results in her suspension. Revealed early on is Ron Silver’s deranged Wall street banker, who had pocketed the gun and now proceeds to enjoy a killing spree across the city. Curtis, reinstated as a Detective with Clancy Brown, has to link everything together and clear her name, whilst dealing with a new, dreamy boyfriend… Ron Silver.
Curtis is the focus as she deals with life in a uniform and the social issues that can present themselves. Again the film does not effectively portray the loneliness Curtis would likely suffer, especially when she loses the support of her fellow cops following the incident. The film touches on this, but does not push much further. Instead the film slips into a more recognisable slasher formula, that Curtis is no stranger to. Curtis is, as you would expect, very strong in the role as she effectively tackles Megan’s determination as it is continually eroded as everyone waits for her to fail, her dreams become clouded as she begins to lose faith in herself.
Silver goes for broke here. On the one hand he is having a ball going off the deep end and making a mark as a properly terrifying, unrelenting nutjob to cross paths with. However, the performance would have benefited from a little backstory. Certainly, I appreciate the idea that this could be anyone, from any walk of life. Yet, Silver is so enjoyably crazy that having a little more about him would have gone a long way. The film misses its opportunity to tap into the mind of the killer and provide more depth to the role. Word is, the character was based on Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz.
Elsewhere, we see Curtis attempting to retreat to her family for support with the, now sadly departed, pairing of Philip Bosco and Louise Fletcher offering conflicting attitudes to Curtis’ chosen career. Kevin Dunne gives a meaty performance as the long suffering captain with another mess to deal with. Clancy Brown has an interesting role as a more experienced detective paired with Curtis to investigate. Initially he appears to be a male saviour role, however, the character steps back for Curtis to be front and centre as he merely holds back the pressure allowing her to focus on the case.
Blue Steel feels more like a procedural cop show than a cinematic thriller, however, the story makes some frustrating errors that mar the experience. Early on Sizemore is seen with the gun and surrounded by customers in the store. Yet Curtis’ claim Sizemore had a gun, despite the number of witnesses, including a store worker who has it shoved in his face, is brought into question. Surely, the witness’s statements would corroborate her claims. However, that would then make for a less than exciting thriller as the department investigates why the crime scene was not secured properly as the weapon was missing.
There are some entertaining action sequences and there is a notable amount of polish to the production that makes this very watchable. The cast are very capable and Bigelow balances the film, however, it still feels like a mish-mash of genres and could have pushed the dramatic, psychological or action elements and become a more interesting film overall.
There isn’t an amazing variation of poster art out there, unless you look east. Original art is fairly flawless in its simple representation of the film.