V.I. Warshawski

1991, 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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jeff Kanew Films
National Lampoon's Adam & Eve
More collegiate humor released by the folks at the Lampoon that has more hormonal smarts than necessary and about as many sex and toilet gags as you suspect.

Marc Savlov, Nov. 4, 2005

Troop Beverly Hills

May 26, 2019

More by Steve Davis
Walking on Water
Portrait of renowned environmental artist Christo is more of a thumbnail sketch

May 24, 2019

Trial by Fire
Cameron Todd Willingham story deserves a better retelling that trusts the evidence

May 17, 2019


V.I. Warshawski, Jeff Kanew, Kathleen Turner, Jay O. Sanders, Angela Goethals, Charles Durning, Frederick Coffin, Nancy Paul

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle