She's a pistol packin' bad girl who's on the run from the mob!
It ain't easy being an ex-gun moll for the mob. Just ask Gloria Swensen (Gene Rowlands in an Oscar nominated performance), a gritty woman who's about to have a bad morning turn into an even worse afternoon. After an accountant turned FBI squealer (Buck Henry, The Player), who is in possession of a ledger filled with enough information to put the mob behind bars, and his family are marked and snuffed out by the mob, Gloria finds herself entrusted with the accountant's son Phil (John Adames, in his only film appearance) and the book of secrets. With the mob fast on their heels, the streetwise Gloria is able to stay one step ahead of the men who want both her and little Phil dead. Time is running out, and so are Gloria's options. Exhausted from the chase, Gloria decides to try one last tactic: confront the mob face to face on her terms.
You have to hand it to the late independent writer/director John Cassavetes—the guy made the movies that he wanted to make, and nothing else. Utilizing the money made from starring in other people's movies (such as The Fury) and his unique filmmaking abilities, Cassavetes directed many classics, including The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Big Trouble (1986), and A Woman Under the Influence. His most mainstream film may be the 1980 action flick Gloria, a chase picture that features Gena Rowlands growling her lines as if she were gnashing steel wool. The film retains a grainy, tough feel that works in its favor—though the fashion styles and Bill Conti's chintzy '80s score are a bit out of date, the story and performances are all tough and endearing. Rowlands, married to Cassavetes at the time, portrays Gloria as a woman who's had enough of the mob and decides (reluctantly) that it's time to fight back. In a time when movies rarely displayed hard female protagonists, Gloria broke all the rules with the chain smoking moll who's getting in touch with her maternal side…and her pearl and silver revolver. The film moves at a surprisingly breakneck pace—Cassavetes doesn't let the action stall once the story is set in motion. Many scenes feature Gloria telling off various gangsters and trying hard to be a somewhat beneficial mother figure to her cohort (these scenes are the funniest and most touching). If there is any dead weight in the film, it's child actor John Adams, screeching and squeaking that he's "the man" and knows what to do. But what child actor isn't a bit grating on the ears? In the end, Gloria isn't a major effort or breakthrough film—it's just a fun action/chase movie that features a female heroine with a set of brass balls. A 1999 remake of Gloria starring Sharon Stone was released in theaters to little fanfare—if you have a choice, go with Cassavetes' original vision.
Gloria is presented in a rather un-glorious 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While it's great to see this flick in its original aspect ratio (and enhanced for 16x9 TV sets), the image itself is a tad faded and washed. While the colors and black levels are, for the most part, solid and well defined, this picture often lacks any true sharpness and sports a heavy amount of grain and image inconsistencies. Topping it off are some out of focus shots that just don't help matters. This is a passable transfer, but just barely. The soundtrack is presented in a just as mediocre Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix in English. What you will find is mostly clear dialogue, music, and effects. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Korean.
If Gloria were a real person, she might just go ballistic on Columbia's @$$—this first ever DVD version of Gloria is void of almost any extra features, save for a few theatrical trailers for various Columbia flicks.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailers
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.