Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) has just graduated from the Police Academy in New York where they taught her to always be aware that there may be more to any given situation than meets the eye. She is delighted to be a cop, but her parents are more wary, or rather her father (Philip Bosco) is as her cowed mother (Louise Fletcher) is pleased but goes along with whatever her husband says - Megan suspects he has been beating her again. But she has other things to worry her when on her first night on the street she catches sight of a robbery across the street...
If ever there was a film that looked lovingly at guns as more than weapons and actually as an extension of the personality, or even as semi-mystical objects of arcane power, then it was Blue Steel. At the time, being director Kathryn Bigelow's next film after Near Dark, it was considered by many to be a disappointment although Curtis was rightly praised for offering an often subtle reading of what could have been your basic slam-bang action heroine, but over the years since Bigelow has been reassessed as an important director - an Oscar can do that - oddly this film has only received middling attention.
Bigelow was best known for tackling traditionally male preserves of movie subjects and proving she could come up with material just as powerful as her counterparts, yet here she actively sought a women's perspective on the masculine-dominated psycho thriller. That's not to say these movies had men as their villains exclusively, as the plot that saw the protagonist stalked by a mad person would often see it as a man victimised by a woman until he was pushed too far, and in its manner Blue Steel could appear as a role reversal of Fatal Attraction. Our psycho here was stockbroker Eugene Hunt, yet given he was portrayed by Ron Silver, a past master of bad guys on the silver screen, credibility was lacking.
That was due to Hunt being one of those ordered to hit the floor by the supermarket robber (a brief bit by debuting Tom Sizemore), and when Megan approaches, gun drawn, he is so turned on by the thought of a woman wielding a firearm that when she empties her pistol into the felon as he makes to shoot her, Hunt sneaks the gun away and disappears from the scene of the crime to carry out a few murders. This leaves Megan in a difficult position, as for some reason nobody can back her up that the robber was holding a gun at all, which is the first sign that the events playing out here were solely plot driven rather than sense driven, the second being that none of Megan's superiors will accept her version of events.
So we have the audience prompted to feel the indignation of injustice which is intended to bolster the feelings of a woman in a man's world and how she has to struggle for equality that much harder, but to say what screenwriters Bigelow and Eric Red have in store for her overstates their case to an absurd degree is all too accurate, and often viewers will have bailed out before then. Smitten, Hunt contrives to get to know Megan and becomes her boyfriend by charming her with a nighttime helicopter ride over the city, but he is of course a nutter who shouts at non-existent voices and overexercises at the same time, as if we were in any doubt that he wasn't the full shilling. Meanwhile, representative for the men in the audience Clancy Brown plays the detective who is sceptical of Megan's competence but comes around to her; as you can see this is a too didactic in its arrangement with the gun fetish a distinctive but silly symbol of the heroine proving herself as good as any male cop. Curtis sells it to a point, but otherwise you might not be convinced. Atmospheric music by Brad Fiedel.
After a starting her career as an artist, this American director and writer moved into the world of film, making her first feature The Loveless in 1982. Five years later came the film which made her name, the modern vampire tale Near Dark, and she followed it up with equally cult-ish thrillers Blue Steel, Point Break and Strange Days. However, The Weight of Water and K-19: The Widowmaker were critical and financial failures, and she fell quiet until Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker over five years later, for which she became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar. She then dramatised the hunt for Osama bin Laden in the controversial Zero Dark Thirty, and tackled the 1967 riots of Detroit. She was once married to fellow director James Cameron, and directed episodes of Wild Palms and Homicide: Life on the Street.