Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) is a cop with the New York City police department, and he has just been awarded a promotion - he will now be a detective in Manhattan. He is looking forward to the opportunities this offers him, and hopes he can move his family out of the rough neighbourhood they live in as a result, because he would do anything to keep them safe and his wife Ellie (Lorraine Bracco) appreciates that. However, about to throw a spanner in the works is rich socialite Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers), who has just witnessed the murder of one of her friends - and she's the only witness.
Someone to Watch Over Me is often overlooked in the canon of director Ridley Scott's films, which is a pity because if it's not up there with Alien and Blade Runner, as an example of a slick eighties thriller with genuine heart his efforts here were well worth investigating. Helping was a script by Howard Franklin, which may have been contributed to by other hands, but sustained the romantic aspect which did not seem like an unnecessary addition to the cop drama but was keenly integrated with the suspense so that you could not imagine one side without the other, not a state of affairs that many movies which attempted that fusion could claim to have succeeded with.
Generally audiences regarded this as a lightweight entry into Scott's oeuvre, but there were some pretty deep emotions here, conveyed with great skill by a cast who were offered further opportunities on the strength of their work here. Berenger's career did not prove as enduring as his co-stars and he ended up in straight to video hell for a while, which was a shame when you saw how excellent he could be in this as the blue collar cop facing the upper classes with both a feeling of inferiority and a hunger to better himself. Not perhaps so he could enjoy the comforts a large income could bring, he is realistic about that, but the impression is that once he is assigned as Claire's nighttime bodyguard he enjoys moving in this new world.
As Mike's boss (Jerry Orbach) tells him, they have to keep his charge safe from the gangster (Andreas Katsulas, typecast as a villain already) she saw stab her associate to death, but they cannot have her be so scared that she refuses to testify, which is precisely what the gangster is reckoning on. The one time she does venture out to a party at an art museum, Mike fails to protect her because the baddie sneaks in and stops her in the toilets, threatening her that she better not pick him out of the lineup, though Mike does notice him immediately afterwards and draws his gun to chase him out of the building, whereupon the ne'erdowell gives himself up to a policeman standing outside.
This does highlight a few flaws in the storyline, as for example the gangster manages to get set free when Mike fails to read him his rights at the arrest, even though this guy is plainly a danger to Claire and you'd find it hard to imagine he would slip away so easily, but Scott and his able cast papered over the less convincing cracks with the strong relationships of the love triangle. The dialogue may sound as if they were trying that bit too hard to be natural, but the acting sold it, and the class problems Mike finds himself in the middle of make this a rare American movie to face up to the subject within the boundaries of the thriller - and do it so well. There are scenes here the stars must have relished playing when it offered them so many chances to shine, from the crass cop banter to Mike and Claire's admission that his protector role is running as deeply with her as it is with his family. It's this which made Someone to Watch Over Me underrated, no classic, but surprisingly resonant within its genre. Music by Michael Kamen.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.