Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Kathryn Bigelow & Eric Reid
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Peña, Louise Fletcher
It’s just not your day when you have the first night on the job this rookie has as a police officer. What comes from a moment of celebration and a life dedicated to serving turns into a crazy unending chase. Punctuate it with some thrilling sequence and an antagonist with no real motive or incentive, and you get the thrilling police story, Blue Steel.
Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) has just graduated from the police academy and serves her first patrol as an NYPD officer. Her first night begins with turmoil as her partner takes a bathroom break and she notices a robbery taking place in a store across the street. She attempts to stop the burglar but shoots him when he points his gun at her. What should be an open-and-shut case gets complicated when the burglar’s gun disappears from the crime scene and it appears she shot an unarmed man.
Watching this film in the current context makes it quite interesting with multiple stories of unarmed black men being murdered by police officers. In this film, it does not happen to a black man and it’s made quite clear the perp had a gun he attempted to use but its disappearance began a cat and mouse game between the person who took it and the young rookie now in hot water for her actions. It makes for a thrilling detective story, which quickly becomes a possessive thriller with the egregious behavior by Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver).
His shift from being a random bystander during the robbery to snatching the gun and then going off and killing people with it as some cathartic ride demonstrates an underlying want and need to harm others. All he needed was the proper tool to do so, as he grabs a gun owned by a criminal and has no ties to him personally. It makes for the perfect set up for him to blow off steam and kill people, which seems odd with his profession being a commodities trader. It appears he’s always wanted to do this and now he gets the chance. The story could have simply been about this man going off in this way, but it moves in a disturbing manner where Eugene becomes obsessed with Megan. He ruined what would be a bright career as an officer for her by taking the gun and now he wants her in a sexual nature. As the audience, we know more than Megan does when she begins to date him, and once she realizes what he has done, the story truly takes off.
Blue Steel is incredibly thrilling with how it shifts in the story and how it allows Jamie Lee Curtis’s character of Megan to be a fully formed character, who makes her own decisions. She makes her own choices and has autonomy in this story mostly left for male characters. It brings a different perspective to when she chooses to have sex, rather than fawning for some male protagonist. The movie belongs to Curtis and she puts on a show as this rookie cop. She has the range to handle those crushing moments of realization and the instances of joy.
This film stands as Kathryn Bigelow’s third feature before she would fully dive into action and more male-centered work. She helps the film navigate some tricky ground in establishing the character of Megan, as she fights off the dangerous and torturous game Eugene forces upon her. As a co-writer of the film, she played a hand in the overall story and it shows how complex the character of Megan turned out to be. Multiple shots in the film show that the deeply mysterious vibe the story wants to give off and the use of the color blue seeps its way into several frames. Megan becomes the detective of crimes initiated from just doing her job and must find a way to convince others about the madness taking place at the hands of Eugene. Just another instance where women do not get believed.
Ultimately, Blue Steel efficiently tells a story about a man psychologically torturing a woman as a means of control. The motive of Eugene never gets a clear explanation, but it can be deduced in the way he takes complete glee in killing people he sees beneath him. Megan’s efforts to bring him to justice pushes her to her limits and creates for a thrilling, sexual, and very entertaining feature film.