There's a fine line between passion and pain.
JoBeth Williams stars as Tess Parker, a psychiatrist cynical about romance until she meets a handsome, recently widowed, Edgar Allen Poe-obsessed professor of English named Paul Tomlinson (Pierce Brosnan). The two meet at a cocktail party where Tomlinson comes on strong, but has the pretty-boy good looks to float a smarminess that would earn your average guy an old fashioned slap in the face. Meanwhile, we sit in on some sessions between Parker and one of her patients, Carla Simmons (Virginia Madsen). Things get creepy when Simmons' descriptions of her manipulative, resistant-to-commitment boyfriend sound eerily similar to Tomlinson. A psychiatrist and not a mathematician, Parker is incredibly obtuse when it comes to putting together two and two. Soon the similarities are so obvious even she senses something is terribly wrong and must ferret out the truth as to whether Simmons or Tomlinson is the dangerous psychopath.
When I saw the title Raw Heat on my screener list, I wondered, "Wrestling video or soft-core porn?" Instead, I got repackaged made-for-TV movie: Raw Heat was originally broadcast in 1991 under the title Victim of Love. Hideous as the original title was, they somehow managed to do worse the second time around. Here's a depressing little fun-fact: this is the second time this cruddy flick has received a DVD release. Sterling put it out in 1998 under its original title. I can't own the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD, or Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby, or Miller's Crossing, or Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, but I could own two, count 'em, two different versions of this turd. All I can say is, Die Another Day better be damned good because there's no doubt Artisan has pushed Raw Heat to market to coincide with Brosnan's heightened visibility during the forthcoming Bond marketing blitz. The way I see it, if Die Another Day sucks, I've been subjected to Raw Heat for nothing. I may become disgruntled and do something extreme.
Actually, if not for its final 10 seconds, Raw Heat would be a solidly mediocre affair. Although you know all the time how the filmmakers are trying to manipulate you, they do succeed in making you second-guess your formulations about the guilt or innocence of Tomlinson and Simmons. Things come to a satisfyingly predictable end, and you smile and think to yourself, "That was pretty stupid, but fun in its own way," only to have a double-twist ending tacked on that results in no ending whatsoever. It's as if veteran television director Jerry London (renowned for having produced Hogan's Heroes) set out intentionally to screw his audience over. I generally avoid giving away endings to films (especially thrillers), but I'm breaking my own rule here, so skip to the next paragraph if you actually want to experience this waste of time for yourself. Here's a hint at how monumentally unsatisfying the ending is: according to this film's cosmology, two out of three individuals caught up in a melodramatic love-triangle are dangerous psychopaths. There are twist endings that leave one reeling, smiling, sometimes laughing as though you've just ridden a rollercoaster…then there are the ones that just piss you off. Can you guess which this is?
Artisan's DVD presentation of Raw Heat is wholly unremarkable. The full screen transfer is soft but natural with fairly well-rendered colors. There's a fair amount of grain throughout. It looks pretty much the way you'd expect an obscure film made 11 years ago for television broadcast to look: not horrible, but not much different than watching TV. While free of distortion and other distractions, the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is flat as can be. It's frankly worse than one would expect from a TV movie of the 1990s.
As dull a DVD package as this is, I've got to say Artisan has invested about as much time, money, and effort as this film deserves. The question I have is, why did they believe we, the audience, deserved to be subjected to the flick at all?
Guilty on all counts. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
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