Most male critics of cinema will never fully understand that for women, stalking is a very real issue. Every woman has found herself the recipient of unwanted, aggressive male attention. And far too many have experienced attentions that escalate to psychological and verbal abuse, threats – and physical violence.
Blue Steel is a film about stalking – not so much an action film as the poster would suggest. It is also a film about the glass ceiling: in this case, that of the NYPD police department. But rather than providing these motifs in overt, familiar “chick flick” terms (think the Lifetime Movie Network), these themes are instead balanced perfectly in a boilerplate 80s cop action/revenge thriller.
Curtis is more relatable that most heroes in these dramas. She’s up against two fronts: her stalker, and the disbelieving, belittling superiors in her line of work. Her journey is breathtaking – and heartbreaking. The film opens with her bright, sunny, and passionate for her work – a theme that would be repeated in the Johnny Utah character of Bigelow’s Point Break. By the end of the film, she’s been terrorized, shot, raped, bereaved, and now suffers from PTSD. Throughout her struggles, she is strong, hot-headed, intelligent – and also, all-too-human. Not exactly the stoic caricature we see in so many action film heroes.
Supporting actors Clancy Brown and Ron Silver provide on-note performances. You gotta feel sorry for Silver, who is always a dickweed – or worse! – in his roles of the 80s. This movie he’s all-too-creepy, and all-too-realistic. Tom Sizemore also makes his film debut as – well, probably exactly who you’d expect him to be.
Blue Steel didn’t get the viewership nor acclaim it should have, I think because male reviewers and critics (who dominate the field, still) simply didn’t know what they were seeing. For those of us who do, the film is surprisingly effective – and sobering. I loved the film and I’m glad I gave it a re-watch. I wish there were more projects like it.