Bob Rafelson’s “Black Widow” (1987) is fashionable movie noir and an undervalued gem about being a vacationer in a single’s personal life.
Fittingly, it principally takes place in Hawaii, the place tourism is the largest trade and a approach for guests to be pleasantly displaced right into a world that isn’t their very own.
The central characters of “Black Widow” are Catherine (Theresa Russell), who murders the wealthy males whose wealth she inherits, and Alexandra (Debra Winger), the antsy agent who pursues her.
By following a string of seemingly linked information tales, Alexandra believes the path of wealthy, lifeless males results in a single girl who has been marrying and killing them. Alexandra goes undercover and befriends Catherine, getting sucked into her intoxicating world.
Black Widow (1987) Theresa Russell performs femme fatale Catherine Petersen
w Debra Winger, Nicol Williamson, Dennis Hopper, Terry O’Quinn, Sami Frey, James Hong, Diane Ladd. pic.twitter.com/xrjNS9ukiF
— Flick “Lens Flare” Noir 🎥🎞 🎬 🎭🎟🎻 (@FlickNoir) July 18, 2022
A minor hit in 1987 and revered, if principally forgotten, by critics, Rafelson’s movie could also be a mainstream web page turner equal however his emblems (an existential longing, unstable fundamental characters and human habits driven-plot) are throughout this.
The last scene for the character of Shin, performed by the great character actor James Hong, is so painful and terrible to look at. I’ve additionally by no means forgotten the scene the place a diving journey takes a scary flip.
The greatest scenes right here each time Winger and Russell get to play off each other. Their characters meet at a diving lesson, the place they’re paired collectively and should apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on one another; it’s an intimate and sure, erotic approach of getting these characters lastly meet, as if one had been making an attempt to soak up the opposite.
In phrases of Rafelson’s output, that is pretty light-weight in comparison with the highs of “Five Easy Pieces” (1970) and “The King of Marvin Gardens” (1972).
Still, after the memorable however iffy “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1981), that is the far sturdier of Rafelson’s neo noirs.
It’s additionally superior to the next “Blood and Wine” (1998) and “No Good Deed” (although the previous showcases an awesome pairing in Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine, each taking part in actually despicable figures).
“Black Widow” got here out the identical yr as Arthur Penn’s “Dead of Winter,” Ridley Scott’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Adrian Lyne’s “Fatal Attraction,” all expertly crafted, adult-minded thrillers with meaty, showcase roles for the feminine leads.
“Black Widow” is a number of build-up, exposition and chopping backwards and forwards between the protagonist and her prey for the primary half and at last grabs a agency maintain of its viewers as soon as the setting turns to the Big Island of Hawaii.
While the surroundings is usually of the interiors of resorts, Rafelson scores large factors for casting the late, terrific Oahu-based Danny Kamekona in the important thing function of a detective and for setting a morality story in such a stunning surroundings.
The last scene is each intelligent and too pat. There are much more sensational examples of this form of thriller, however Rafelson, as targeted on character and contradictory human habits as ever, makes this smarter and extra trendy than anticipated.
The lighting typically evokes movie noir imagery, although the exploration of how a righteous character is immersed within the life-style of somebody with out a ethical compass solidifies the movie’s place within the style.
While Terry O’Quinn, Nicol Williamson and Dennis Hopper present coloration with their supporting turns, the movie belongs to Winger and Russell. Winger appears to relish such a wealthy half, particularly after her famously sad expertise on “Legal Eagles” (though she’s terrific in each).
Russell is an eternally underrated performer, whose performances in her late husband Nicolas Roeg’s movies display how fearless and versatile her appearing skills are.
The harmful recreation of discover and seize which these characters play has wealthy layers, as their pairing is initially sister-like, appears to adapt unstated attraction and at last turns into a merciless race to destroy the opposite.
“Black Widow” (which sadly shares its title with a much more in style Marvel comedian e book film) would possibly appear to be a trifle, however Rafelson’s work is at all times value in search of out (sure, even the failed 1992 Jack Nicholson/Ellen Barkin farce, “Man Trouble”).
Winger and Russell’s most outstanding work occurred in Nineteen Seventies-Nineteen Nineties and so they aren’t talked about among the many most important, danger taking and putting actresses of the twentieth century, however they had been.
Thrillers have at all times been a style for grownups, which is why the complexities and human messiness of “Black Widow” is so welcome, even in the present day…or particularly in the present day.