Blue Steel (1990) – A Review


A review of the 1990 cop thriller Blue Steel, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Louise Fletcher, Richard Jenkins, directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) has just graduated from the police academy. On her first day on the beat she ends up stumbling onto a robbery in progress and shoots the thief. The gun he was wielding falls to the ground and lands right in front of one of the scared bystanders, commodities trader Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver).

During the shocked aftermath, Eugene ends up taking the perpetrators gun from the scene and leaves the scene. Now with no weapon present it makes Curtis actions look like she shot an unarmed suspect. She ends up being put on leave, and we learn Silver has become unhinged by the violent incident. He undergoes a schizophrenic snap, obsessed with Curtis and uses the gun in a series of random murders – leaving Curtis’ name etched on the bullets!

Things get even crazier, when Silver begins romancing Curtis. At first she thinks she might have finally found a great guy in her life, until it’s revealed to her that Silver is actually the deranged killer who has been killing in her name. This should be the end for Eugene, however he’s smart enough to skirt around the law leaving no evidence against him. It’s Megan’s word against his and her male superiors don’t believe the young rookie woman.

Blue-Steel-1990-crime-thriller-Jamie-Lee-Curtis-copEven after Megan’s friend becomes the latest victim and Eugene makes a ominous visit to her parents house, Megan has no one to turn to for help. She feels helpless and accepts that she alone will have to put a stop to this craziness, the opportunity to finally prove Eugene’s guilt and then blow him away.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Blue Steel is a well put together thriller with some fine performances by Curtis and Silver at the head of it. They’re both fun to watch, give it their all throughout and they alone keep you engaged until the very end.

Unfortunately, the story goes through such absurd levels that it ends up breaking the credibility it starts with. You’ll have to be willing to swallow A LOT of far-fetched leaps of logic, to still enjoy it. If you can go along with some of the outlandish parts, stick with it as it falls into preposterous territory, it still manages to remain a fairly entertaining pulp thriller.

Things start promising as we watch Curtis receive her badge and gun, she puts on her blues and encounters a robbery. It’s a tense scene, as the frightened Curtis manages to kill the armed robber, played by Tom Sizemore. Her and the customers are so shocked and shaken by the incident, no one notices Silver while laying on the ground, swipes the robber’s fallen gun and slips out of the store.

Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Blue-Steel-1990-cop-thrillerCurtis’ actions are questioned by her superiors and homicide detective Clancy Brown. With little defense to fall on and no confirmation of the robber having a gun at the scene, Curtis is placed on leave.

Meanwhile, now in possession of this .44 Magnum, Eugene proceeds to become more and more unbalanced. He begins hearing voices, carves Megan’s name into a bullet and one night suddenly kills an innocent bystander. The police are baffled and Megan’s problems have gotten worse as now she is associated with a serial killer and has no idea who it could be or why they would be fixated with her. 

Ron-Silver-Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Blue-Steel-1990-thrillerIt’s pretty good so far, but when Eugene becomes romantically involved with Megan things start to stretch plausibility. I’m still not entirely sure whether his first meeting of Megan was orchestrated by Eugene or if it was just happenstance. The film never makes it entirely clear. He sees her on the street, they share a cab together and go to dinner.

They have a whirlwind romance with some fancy restaurants and flying over the city in a helicopter. Despite this new man in her life at first Megan discounts the idea that he could be involved in these killings. Even the police completely dismiss the idea thinking, he’s a commodities trader, he can’t possibly be the killer. 

Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Clancy-Brown-Blue-Steel-1990-thrillerThings could have moved into a smart psychological battle between the two. The psycho against the young policewoman. That might have made it a more unique crime film and one that would be underrated gem. That’s not where Blue Steel is headed though. 

As the news picks up the story of these murders there’s shadows of the Son of Sam killings, as Eugene is dubbed the ‘.44 Caliber Killer’. It’s very farfetched how far Silver manages to avoid detection. Megan is introduced as a smart and observant character, so her not even considering something is suspicious about him is pretty odd.

Sure, Eugene is meant to be smart, but he doesn’t end up so much slyly getting around the law using some small loopholes, but bodysurfs banging cymbals through them, helped along by incredible luck. 

Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Blue-Steel-1990-thriller-strong-female-characterBy the time Curtis learns what Silver is up to, the police are still resistant to listening to her. I understand they have to be reluctant to believe her and there has to be no way legally for them to arrest Eugene – I mean we’re only halfway through the movie – but they’re SO skeptical of Curtis, not accepting, or even considering she might possibly be telling the truth, it becomes pretty baffling. 

It’s a shame things weren’t written smarter, making it more reasonable that Megan is left on her own and she can’t rely on her brothers in blue to help her with this maniac. As it stands things are left with stubborn police and a weaselly lawyer (played by Richard Jenkins) to allow Eugene to walk freely around doing all manner of killings until Megan can stop him.

There are some fun little scenes, such as Curtis meeting a man at a barbecue who immediately becomes turned off by her when he learns she’s a policewoman. The film looks really good! The guns look heavy and dangerous. There’s some beautiful closeups of the guns, bullet and, the actors and the sounds of the gunshots sound impactful.

There’s a moody blue sheen that lays over certain scenes. I was always reminded of the look many of James Cameron films when I see some of the lighting in Blue Steel. Maybe it’s not such a coincidence since he was Bigelow’s ex. 

Kathryn-Bigelow-Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Blue-Steel-1990-thrillerThere’s a needless domestic violence subplot involving Curtis’ parents Phillip Bosco and Louise Fletcher. It plays a very minimal part in the story and ends up being insignificant. A twist of Curtis and Brown having an after shootout sex is another contrived moment, which immediately follows her cuffing him to a steering wheel leaving him easy pretty for the deranged killer in the area.

By the time Curtis and Silver are in a gunfight in the middle of the streets of the city, after both being shot and bleeding so much it’s amazing both are still able to stay awake let alone continue to shoot at each other, logic and believability has long been chucked out the window.

Blue-Steel-1990-cop-action-thriller-Jamie-Lee-CurtisBlue Steel does have some good stuff in it and if you’re in the mood for a disposable thriller that has some taut scenes it will deliver on that. Curtis and Silver are captivating and give some very fine hardcore performances.

Curtis came to fame as ‘The Final Girl’ in 1978’s Halloween, and would return as the character of Laurie Strobe several times – most recently in the disappointing rebooted Halloween sequel trilogy. It became her signature role of the ‘tough female protagonist’ and an iconic character that fans admire and were captivated by.

Her role as Megan Turner is a fine addition to that type of role of a strong female lead for her. It’s just this time it’s in a thriller rather than a horror film, which I think she’s better and much cooler in it than all the recent Halloween sequels she came back for. You like her, you sympathize for her and can’t wait for her to push everyone to the side so she can finally put an end to Eugene.

Unfortunately, Blue Steel and Curtis didn’t receive much attention. I think she’s one of the films strongest things going for it, despite it not being as good as it probably should have been.

I do find a lot of entertaining scenes that make up Blue Steel, I just wish I liked the film as a whole more. There’s a lot of leaps and bounds that take place to escalate the story to make it all happen. You have to give up a whole lot of suspension of disbelief to enjoy the full story. 

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