Based on Sara Paretsky's best-selling novels and starring Kathleen Turner, an actress with a knack for picking winners, V.I. WARSHAWSKI amounts to decidedly less than the sum of its parts. The dialogue, while often crisp and cogent, is not in service of a compelling and original story.
V.I. "Vic" Warshawski (Turner) is a Chicago private eye with a healthy, no-nonsense attitude, a sufficient but unprosperous business and an ache for the right lover. She meets a male model type in a bar, one Bernard "Boom Boom" Grafalk (Stephen Meadows), a nearly over-the-hill hometown
professional hockey star and one of three brothers with a vested interest in Grafalk Shipping. This local concern, it comes to light, has several ugly skeletons in the family closet. He may be the Prince Charming that V.I. lusts for, but her fire is doused when he shows up at her apartment near
Wrigley Field with his 11-year-old daughter, Kat (Angela Goethals), several hours after necking with Warshawski outside the bar.
"It is too late in the evening and too early in the relationship to be bringing a kid in," Warshawski complains. But before she can say "two-minute penalty," Bernie is gone, leaving the youngster in V.I.'s custody. Kat is precocious, to say the least, given to mixing adult language with
pre-adolescent fears. Her confusion is compounded when she and V.I. go in search of Bernie, just in time to see his corpse pulled from Lake Michigan. Suddenly, Warshawski has a new client: Kat. In short order she meets Lt. Mallory (Charles Durning, in an entirely peripheral role) and newspaper
reporter Murray (Jay O. Saunders), her sometime-lover and a full-time snoop in his own right. He gives V.I. the dope on the oddball surviving Grafalk brothers, Horton (Frederick Coffin) and Trumble (Charles McCaughan), neither of whom prove helpful to her investigation.
Through Murray and Kat herself, V.I. learns that Kat loathes her mother. Paige Grafalk (Nancy Paul) is a conniving shrew who divorced the late Bernie, Kat's natural father, and married Trumble, his brother. Thus, Kat's uncle is also her stepfather. This creates a substantial identity crisis for
Kat; no wonder she would rather stay with V.I. than go home. Moreover, Kat is worth $100 million, the estimated value of Chicago waterfront land for which she holds title as the sole owner of Fishing Dock and Holding Co., Inc. Paige and Trumble Grafalk covet the property, but to get it they must
take custody of Kat--and therefore presumably had a good incentive to make her an orphan to begin with. This skein is framed by a dockworker strike which affects the status and value of the Grafalk deal, for which Bernie has died.
V.I. is all over town, at first on her own, and later with Kat. She visits Trumble's sculpture warehouse and finds him, and his art, singularly repulsive. Horton is uncooperative. The dock-worker union leader is impolite. V.I. is accosted by two henchmen of Earl, a local mobster, who pummel V.I.
no less crudely than Dirty Harry ever was. Earl is one of several peripheral characters picked up and dropped in stock scenes that lack a distinctive reality. The Grafalks' lawyer; Ernie (John Beasley), a dock friend of Kat's; a bank manager; and two goons in a boat chase on the Chicago River all
appear in scenes that are oddly or statically staged, and often abrupt. Earl gets his just reward for backing the wrong side, or rather, trying to profit from all of them. V.I. moves into harm's way when she skulks about in Trumble's office.
The denouement, not surprisingly, relies upon gunplay, a family double-cross and the imperilment of Kat, none of which is particularly provocative or suspenseful. Despite its quick pace and often wry dialogue, V.I. WARSHAWSKI's attempt to update the hard-boiled whodunit genre fizzles.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Based on Sara Paretsky's best-selling novels and starring Kathleen Turner, an actress with a knack for picking winners, V.I. WARSHAWSKI amounts to decidedly less than the sum of its parts. The dialogue, while often crisp and cogent, is not in service of a… (more)