Review: Someone to Watch Over Me

Married, newly appointed police detective Tom Berenger is assigned to protect sophisticated socialite Mimi Rogers, eyewitness to a murder committed by hulking Andreas Katsulas, until she can testify against him in court. That is, when they actually catch and arrest the guy. It’s an initially frosty relationship given Rogers’ wilfulness, but before long obvious sparks start to fly. Daniel Hugh Kelly and Jerry Orbach play fellow cops, Mark Moses plays ‘guy who gets murdered in the opening sequence’, Lorraine Bracco is Berenger’s loving wife, and John Rubenstein plays Rogers’ rich associate who seems rather protective of her and jealous of Berenger.

Before “The Bodyguard”, there was…the movie it ripped off. I’m being a bit harsh, as both that film and this 1987 glossy romance/thriller from Ridley Scott (“Alien”, “Legend”, “Gladiator”, “The Martian”) are highly watchable genre efforts. The former has by far the better soundtrack and a better mystery, this one’s got by far the better director and no mystery at all. Also, while it doesn’t have a memorable soundtrack per se, the title song (covered a billion times, Sting and Roberta Flack both do versions at points in the film) is probably better known than the movie. Yet, the similarities in plot between the two are still awfully close so as to make comparisons/contrasts inevitable.

Early on, Lorraine Bracco steals things in her first major film role as Berenger’s loving wife and mother to their kid. She’s really, really good actually in what is sadly not an especially interesting or deep role. It’s a very typical 80s Ridley Scott film (possibly bordering over into his brother Tony’s even glossier territory at times), good-looking and with a hint of Brian De Palma minus the Hitchcock wankery, but with some strobe lighting. An immaculately lit film by Steven Poster (“The Boy Who Could Fly”, “The Box”), the look and style work for the film, actually and it’s no surprise that this is from the same director as the later “Black Rain”. They have a somewhat similar look and aren’t worlds apart in genre, either. The film makes absolutely no bones about who its villain is, it’s Andreas Katsulas (who would later play the physically disabled villain in a certain 1993 crime/thriller) right from the word go and from a visual standpoint, the hulking actor is a very fine choice. I did wonder why such a big-time crim was doing so much of the dirty work himself, though. You’d think he’d have the power, money, and influence to outsource a little more. Still, you’ll remember Katsulas when the film is over, so he definitely does his job. Tom Berenger’s a good choice for the lead too, equal to Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard” (a bit looser, too). I also have to say that Mimi Rogers, although I’m not a fan, is a better actress than Whitney Houston, and her character is a little more vulnerable. That’s not saying much though. She’s still not terribly effective, in fact she’s icy enough to sort of work against the character if anything. What saves her- and the romantic angle in general- is that she and Berenger share more romantic chemistry together than Costner and Whitney did. So while she may individually not be terribly appealing to me as a viewer, at least she and Berenger are believable enough together. Also, after a while some vulnerability on Rogers’ part does shine through. A bit. I do feel it’s a bit “Fatal Attraction” all over again though, with Berenger falling for someone else when he’s married to someone arguably more appealing to begin with. So that bothered me a tad, though Rogers is certainly more appealing (in every way) than Glenn Close was in both performance and character. You can at least see why and how Berenger’s character gets himself caught up in and fascinated by Rogers and all she represents.

The supporting cast is unquestionably tops, headed by the aforementioned Katsulas and Bracco, but also featuring solid turns by John Rubenstein and especially Jerry Orbach. While it’s difficult to not think his “Law & Order” character has travelled back in time a few years and appeared in this, Orbach is pitch-perfect casting.

If you like your 80s romantic thrillers like “Body Heat”, “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”, “Fatal Attraction”, and “Sea of Love”, you’ll like this one. If you liked “The Bodyguard”, well this is pretty much the film that film borrowed a lot from. Slick, glossy thriller is well-shot, well-directed, and mostly well-acted. The script by Howard Franklin (writer of “The Name of the Rose”, writer/co-director of the not-bad comedy “Quick Change”) doesn’t go terribly deep, and I’m not sure Mimi Rogers is perfect casting, but for a surface-level entertainment, this has pretty good surface. The score by Michael Kamen, meanwhile isn’t a million miles from his excellent score from the same year’s “Lethal Weapon” and is perfectly solid.

Rating: B-


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