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V.I. Warshawski

Rated R, 89 min. Directed by Jeff Kanew. Starring Kathleen Turner, Jay O. Sanders, Angela Goethals, Charles Durning, Frederick Coffin, Nancy Paul.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 2, 1991

For a movie that talks as tough as V.I. Warshawski, it sure doesn't have a whole lot to say. You'd think Sara Paretsky's popular detective novels about the Chicago female private eye with the unpronounceable name would provide some fertile narrative ground, but the only real mystery in this movie is why there's no mystery. Mistakenly believing that it can succeed on nothing but the notion of a woman doing a “man's job,” V.I. Warshawski is zilch in the plot department; most half-hour detective dramas on television have more compelling story lines. Rather than flesh out the details of the plot -- one of Warshawski's would-be suitors is murdered, leaving a 13-year-old daughter in her care -- the company of screenwriters instead concentrate on engaging the smoky-voiced Turner in some smart-mouthed repartee, the kind of sass that is as cliched as her apartment overlooking Wrigley Field. More aggravating, this movie feels obligated to remind you every so often about how hip it is to put Sam Spade in heels -- there's little feminist subtlety here. (Unlike Thelma & Louise, there's also little joy in this movie's feminism.) Director Kanew has no affection for the detective genre. Indeed, the film's one chase scene hobbles along as if on crutches. For a while Turner keeps your attention as she gamely tries to shape a character out of a cardboard cutout with great-looking gams. But even with those legs, V.I. Warshawski hasn't much to stand on.
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