Someone To Watch Over Me is a solid and kind of forgotten about romantic thriller that director Ridley Scott managed to make his own with his distinct visual style and some pretty decent and believable performances.
Newly minted detective Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) finds his life turned upside down when he’s assigned to protect Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers), the beautiful eyewitness to a brutal murder. Lured into danger and the dizzying heights of Gregory’s glamourous lifestyle, Keegan finds himself as a man on the edge. As he struggles to walk the line between his duty of protection and his overwhelming passionate obsession with this new alluring woman in his life; all while trying to stay one step ahead of a psychotic killer hell bent on silencing the only witness to his heinous crime.
While Director Ridley Scott felt pressured to take this job to prove that he could bring a movie in under budget (he had previous film go over budget and shooting schedule), Someone To Watch Over Me still works well as a romantic thriller that plays as an ode to the Film Noir classics of the 40’s and the 50’s that still has Scott’s trademark visual flair.
It’s certain not a film that fits inside Scott’s typical wheelhouse but it is still a stark reminder of what he’s capable of as a visual storyteller. The film looks like a million bucks, playing with light and shadow just like he did in Blade Runner and it crafts a very intense and claustrophobic mood for itself. With Director of Photography Steven Poster he makes it all feel like we are getting wrapped up in a hypnotic labyrinth of emotion. The script from Howard Franklin is solid and borrows a lot femme fatale beats along the way, it’s not a particularly happy movie with lots of flawed characters but it makes the drama much more relatable. And while there’s nothing about this film that reinvents the wheel it hits so many of the right beats along the way in the narrative that you can’t help but get invested in the story, most thanks to some strong performances.
Tom Berenger seemingly never got the credit he deserved for being a gruff yet compelling leading every man. While his range felt limited at times, we can always buy that he’s a man at a crossroads dealing with far more then he should be. Playing flawed and playing it naturally never gets the respect it deserves and Berenger has always had that tool in his arsenal. Mimi Rogers was strong opposite him as the high class object of his affection and together they worked as their dynamic together was actually a little awkward and that’s what made it all work. Meanwhile the best performance of the film came from Lorraine Bracco as the long suffering wife of Berenger’s character and she really did carve out a nice little cottage industry niche taking roles like this in one of her first on screen roles. Of course there’s a couple of stereotypic New York type roles with the late Jerry Orbach playing a NY cop and Andreas Katsulas leaning into the bad guy role.
This release from Shout Factory is decent but fairly bare bones.
There’s an English DTS 2.0 audio track that is decent enough but the picture quality is fairly grainy with a lot of noise. It’s not terrible but it is showing the films age as it looks like it was probably pulled from a Digital Betacam or 1’ master video rather than from original film sources.
The special features include an interview with writer Howard Franklin who does provide some insight into the inspiration and the beats of the film in crafting that old school film noir vibe. There’s also an interview with Director of Photography Steven Poster that is actually a bit more interesting as we get some insight into how some of the look of the film was created on a significantly lower budget then Ridley Scott would have worked with in the past.
Is Someone To Watch Over Me ultimately ‘Shelf Worthy’? I’d say yes, but honestly only if you are a Ridley Scott fanatic and even have VHS copies of his old Apple and Chanel ads/short films somewhere, otherwise it’s a pretty but unnecessary part of his canon.
Dave Voigt is obsessed with the moving image as he watches far too many movies from, in and around
his home in Toronto. Please feel free to visit him over at In The Seats for even more cinematic insight,
the occasional nonsensical rant…and lots of contests.