031: Someone to Watch Over Me

This is the fourth movie in my Ridley Scott retrospective.

After making four movies which all featured extravagant visuals, storytelling, and a lot production troubles, I think Ridley Scott was ready for something different. Something smaller, something like Someone to Watch Over Me, an ordinary police thriller.

Tom Berenger plays Mike Keenan, a blue collar cop from Queens, New York, who is assigned to bodyguard the beautiful uptown woman Claire (Mimi Rogers) who is a material witness in a murder case. The close proximity to a beautiful woman and a general tiredness of life, Mike starts falling for Claire. That’s the plot, that’s all you’re gonna get. Nothing, except the visuals, will surprise you in any way about this thriller.

Berenger and Rogers are dependable to deliver a performance that carries the movie, but there is an apparent lack of chemistry to emotionally push things along. This is in part caused by Berenger’s home situation. He is married to a woman who knows what she wants, is hands-on and isn’t afraid to give him flack for the stuff he is doing. Yet he chooses the rich person, because it is more convenient. He basically is a coward. Roger Ebert described the lack of passion in his 1987 review as follows:

“The movie’s high-tech sex scenes are done with all the cinematic technical support the director, Ridley Scott, can muster, but they’re dead because they contain only sex, not passion. Needless to say, there are no sex scenes in the film between Berenger and Bracco – between the man and wife.”

I totally agree with Ebert, and the rest of what he says, that the focus is all wrong. Clearly Lorraine Bracco steals the show as Berenger’s wife who has been loyal to him all these years and doesn’t deserve this treatment. Yet, she is criminally underused and gets terrible outcome when she is turned into a damsel in distress at the end. Wow, I get more mad about this movie while writing this.

This was very much a project that probably didn’t ask much of Scott. He was a director who was, by then, used to making movies about dueling soldiers, murderous aliens, dystopian futures and prancing unicorns. We could see Someone to Watch Over Me as a turning point in Scott’s career. It wasn’t until Gladiator in 2000, thirteen years and six films later, that Scott would return to the big spectacles that his first films were. (He tried in 1492: Conquest of Paradise, but regrettably he missed the mark there. But that’s for a later post.)

Scott has made some nice smaller movies like Thelma & Louise and White Squall, but personally I prefer Scott’s movies to be epic. That’s where he shines. See Someone to Watch Over Me when you are a Ridley Scott-completist, otherwise this is not really worth your time.

> IMDb