F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 14, 2012)

14 12 2012

Blue Steel

It’s rare these days to find a taut, well-constructed thriller.  Usually these genre pics fall victim to throwing on cheap frills and pointless scenes that disrupt the forward momentum of the picture towards a heart-pumping finale.  Not Kathryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel,” though.  This pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is an early example of the director’s incredible ability to build tension to nerve-wracking effect, making it an interesting companion piece with her Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker.”

Beyond just a thriller, “Blue Steel” is also a remarkable movie to watch from a feminist perspective.  Ironic that Bigelow would wind up being the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director as the film deals with many themes of male castration anxiety in the wake of female empowerment.  Bigelow uses a common symbol for masculinity, the phallically shaped gun, and makes many powerful and provocative suggestions in the film’s subtext.

But even if you don’t really want to do an intellectual read on the film, there’s still plenty for you.  “Blue Steel” also works as an grittier, pared-down “Fatal Attraction”-esque story, a narrative that captivates when combined with Bigelow’s remarkable ability to generate suspense.

The film begins with Jamie Lee Curtis’ policewoman Megan Turner gunning down an armed robber in a convenient store, but it quickly spirals into so much more as her bold gesture piques the interest of a bystander, Eugene Hunt (Ron Sliver).  Bizarrely inspired – or threatened – by Turner’s aggression, he begins committing strange deeds in her name to get her attention.  We never quite get a logical reason for his breakdown, but we don’t need one to be terrified and riveted by his sociopathic quest.

Even though it was released in 1990, “Blue Steel” still feels incredibly intense and gripping today.  It might have something to do with the odd parallels Megan Turner bears to Kathryn Bigelow’s journey to notoriety.  However, the more likely reason is that every scene in her film is essential towards progressing the film and not a moment seems wasted.