Released: March 16, 1990
Watched: February 28, 2021
I could have sworn this movie was on my quarantine pod’s list of movies I needed to watch; I distinctly remember seeing the movie poster image on our Amazon Prime watchlist. My quarantine pod hadn’t heard of this movie until I mentioned it, and thinks I saw it while I was IMDB’ing Point Break. Which is very possible.
Or even more likely–I confused the movie poster with the movie poster for The Net starring Sandra Bullock (which *is* on the list).
I mean, from a distance, it’s kinda easy to mix them up, right?
Maybe I need to wear my glasses more often.
In any case, I suggested Blue Steel on our movie night because I like Jamie Lee Curtis, and having just seen Point Break, I was curious about Kathryn Bigelow’s earlier directing efforts.
So we watched it.
And it is a movie we watched.
I’m glad we watched it, but I don’t need to watch it again.
Trigger warning: the rest of the review will discuss stalking, abuse, and rape.
Blue Steel is an uncomfortable movie. We watch Megan (JLC’s character) be constantly questioned about her interest, capability, and fortitude to be an police officer by her male coworkers, by a potential date, and even by her own father. We see her grow closer to a man (whom we know to be a killer) because he seemingly supports her career. Even though we know the truth, we have to stand by and watch her struggle to gain and maintain credibility with the police, both as an fellow officer and as a victim. Her privacy is constantly violated as the killer stalks her workplace, shows up unannounced at her parents’ house, and breaks into her home and rapes her.
Even the ending closes on an uncertain note — after shooting the killer, Megan slumps in a car from exhaustion. As a cop rouses Megan and escorts her out of the car, the screen fades to black. Throughout the entire movie, we had seen Megan chafe against police procedures seemingly designed to constrain her or leave her defenseless. In any other movie, Megan’s actions, no matter how reasonable, would have had her fired for insubordination. As the credits roll, we don’t know if the cop is there to support Megan or apprehend her. Even though the killer is dead, we don’t know if Megan will find comfort.
And that is perhaps the point.
Throughout the film, there is an constant undercurrent of victim-blaming and gaslighting. As if the director wanted to give audiences a taste of what it’s like to be a woman, trapped and pushed to a point where they feel they have no legal options. The two people most likely to believe Megan are both shot dead. The third is in a precarious situation of her own. Megan is driven to isolation. She doesn’t feel comfortable or safe at her workplace, ironic given her career. Is there no wonder she decides to take action, consequences be damned?
The scenes with Megan’s parents (played by Louise Fletcher in an non-villainous(!) role and Philip Bosco) seem to reinforce that sentiment; Megan’s mother is abused by her husband, but continues to stay with him–we aren’t explicitly told, although it’s not difficult to imagine the reasons why. It is hard for women to escape the abuse when system is designed to protect and benefit the abuser. Perhaps this is why Megan decided to join the police force — to create a difference for women like her own mother. Sadly as she finds out — the system is insidious and resistant to change.
A review I read compared Blue Steel to Halloween. Aside the obvious JLC connection, I think this comparison is apt. Bigelow uses uncomfortable dread to ramp up the tension as nothing seems to pin Eugene to his crimes and Megan is constantly perceived by her peers in an unflattering light. One could even say that Blue Steel is horror-esque, sadly depicting a horrible reality still experienced by many women today.
To that end, I think Blue Steel is well directed, and probably worth watching once.
But the movie isn’t perfect. (Even good is arguable.) I like Jamie Lee Curtis, but my quarantine pod thought her acting wooden. Certain character choices are odd — why would Megan sleep with her supervising officer? What drove Eugene to kill; did he always have inner demons or was it a trauma response to the shootout at the beginning of the film? The police procedures are illogical — Making a rookie an honorary detective after days on the job? Having her be involved in her own investigation? Not firing her for her actions or making her see a psychiatrist? The script could have used one or two more rewrites.