Case Number 21511: Small Claims Court


Mill Creek Entertainment // 1991 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 9th, 2011

The Charge

"When in doubt, hesitate!" -- V.I. Warshawski

The Case

In 1991 Kathleen Turner was at the top of her game coming off a string of amazing hits including Romancing the Stone, Peggy Sue Got Married, Body Heat, War of the Roses, and lending her voice to Jessica in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. It didn't seem like she could go wrong, and she was the best paid actress of her time. Pop singer Falco ("Rock Me Amadeus") even wrote a song about longing for a kiss from her. So it made sense to try and find Kathleen a franchise to call her own, and that came in the form of a best-selling series of books about a hard-boiled female detective.

On the pages, Warshawski was a brunette living in Chicago who had a penchant for jogging and carrying her father's big magnum into tight situations. She was a character written by Sara Paretsky. The 1984 book Deadlock was bought by producers for Turner's film, and they promptly put three guys on the job to rewrite it. What results is a watered down version of the character involved in a wimpy mystery that has some weak comic moments in it. The film revolves around the murder of a hockey star, and it follows Vic as she helps his daughter uncover a corporate mystery of who took her daddy out.

kathleen turner is v.i .warshawski

As watered down as the script is, there's no denying Kathleen Turner's appeal. Even in what feels like a made-for-television Cagney and Lacey project, the actress has a burning intensity and killer legs. She's a star who rises above the material, but it's not enough. Theatrically, the film was considered a flop when it only made twelve million, and you can still see what a disappointment it is on the Blu-ray.

Mill Creek has made this a "feature only" edition with no supplements or embellishments. We get the film alone, and it looks grainy and faded as if it were screening in a revival theater that managed to get a pretty okay print after all these years. It doesn't look much improved from the 2001 DVD edition, which was even considered a let down back then. The grain is still there. Colors have been improved a touch, but overall the clarity is just not there. I suppose this is as good as V.I. Warshawski has ever looked at home, but that is faint praise.

The saddest part of the tale is Kathleen Turner never did get a chance to do another chapter of what was meant to be her big franchise. Well, not on the screen anyway. The author loved her performance so much that she did bring the actress in to do books on tape and a run on BBC radio later on. Turner developed severe rheumatoid arthritis and battled a war against pain that induced alcoholism, and the two conditions combined cut her white hot film career short. She began to get character parts instead of leads. There was Serial Mom, but for the most part her big star days were behind her.

It's a shame we don't get more with this film. V.I. Warshawski just doesn't quite do Kathleen Turner justice. This Blu-ray from Mill Creek just features a middling transfer without any extras. Turner deserves better, and hopefully she'll get to do a commentary for one of her big hits soon that will get a sparkling transfer as well. At least here we get a glimpse of how fabulous she is even when doing a "B movie."

The Verdict

Guilty of being not quite as good as its star, but at least she has killer legs and a whiskey-soaked voice.

Review content copyright © 2011 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)

* None

Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb