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Conundrum Reviews

Though ill-designed to shoulder weighty issues like gender politics, this Showtime cable thriller makes a dismal case for the role of women in law enforcement. No-nonsense lady detective Rose Ekberg (Marg Helgenberger) already had one lustful co-worker keel-hauled on sexual-harassment charges. She enjoys a warmer working relationship with her partner, Stash Horak (Michael Biehn). After his pregnant wife is savagely raped and murdered, eyebrows go up all over the department when Rose and the grieving Stash become lovers. But the stakes rise much higher once their main informant inside the Minneapolis Asian mob turns up battered to death; his fingerprints were found on the dead woman. Rose believes local godfather Tam (Harvey Chao) is the real culprit behind the killings, and she covers for an increasingly unstable Stash when Internal Affairs starts snooping around. Then, planted evidence points the finger of suspicion at Rose herself. Now a fugitive, the policewoman realizes that Stash is guilty after all. Motivated by both his wife's infidelity--the fetus wasn't his--and a blackmail plot by Tam, Stash paid the informant to slay his spouse, then killed the assassin in turn, and finally framed Rose. Rose confronts her estranged partner during a raid on Tam's. Stash shoots Tam, and then blows his brains out with Rose's gun. Taken at face value, this grim potboiler suggests that sex rules the station house, whether it's Stash being cuckolded, divorcee Rose sleeping with the enemy, or one of the few friendly males in the precinct cautioning the heroine with, "Just do what I've been doing for years--watch your ass." Though she's somehow exonerated in Stash's portentous suicide at the end, Rose will never fit in with the boys's club. While most Hollywood policewomen seem to be recruited fresh out of modeling school, the hard-edged Helgenberger brings verisimilitude to a difficult part. Biehn gets little chance to develop beyond a rogue cop--and, sure enough, Vietnam vet--who goes nuts in the last reel. (Sexual situations, nudity, violence, adult situations.)