WHAT THIS HOT summer movie season needs and now has is a good, old-fashioned private eye film starring Kathleen Turner as the detective.
The movie is "V.I. Warshawski," which is based on the mystery novels written by Sara Paretsky.
In the film, Turner is Warshawski, a private eye who talks tough and when she needs to, dirty. She's a stunner in many ways. She is a physical stunner when it comes to dealing with her enemies, and she is a visual stunner when she is just moving about.
She may be adept in the martial arts department, but she also likes to dress. She wears haute couture numbers, and she likes her shoes red and spiked. She is, in short, a caution to the bad men (and women) who stand in her way. Of course, she gets knocked around herself, but she takes it on the chin and just about everywhere else.
She is the female equivalent to the kind of detectives Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell played in all those film noir movies that were popular during the '30s and '40s.
"V.I. Warshawski" isn't a very long film. It runs something under 90 minutes, but for all that time, it's smart and sassy, the way the Bogart and Powell private-eye movies were. This is a very worthy return to the genre in which the lone detectives always got their men, or their women.
Turner doesn't talk as tough as Bogart and Powell did, but she's funnier than they were and a heck of a lot prettier. We are also happy to report that the star drops those mannerisms (the widening of the eyes, for one) that are becoming a part of the Turner personality on television.
As Warshawski, Turner is a private eye working in Chicago where her boyfriend, a newspaper reporter (this is really an old-fashioned touch), is anything but faithful and where she meets, by chance, a former hockey great.
She is cautious. The guy is a charmer, but Warshawski has been burned, and she isn't about to have it happen again, not this quickly, anyway.
Before long, the hockey veteran dies when he gets too close to a boat that explodes. When it does, Warshawski finds herself caring for the dead man's young daughter, and everyone beats up on everybody else, including the star.
At one point, she takes it on the jaw then reminds her assailant that it is very difficult to remove the stain of blood from cashmere. At other times, she has the upper hand and uses it on a variety of male nasties.
There are times, here and there, where the plot gets a trifle dense, and the ending is far more romantic than practical (you're just not going to believe it), but that's about all that is wrong with "V.I. Warshawski," who is known, more familiarly, in the film, as Vic.
Jay O. Sanders is Murray, the reporter who is supposed to be in love with Vic but not enough to stay away from other women. Charles Durning is a police lieutenant who hounds the detective the way all police lieutenants hound private eyes in movies of this sort. Angela Goethals is Kat, the 13-year-old who talks bratty but at heart is really a good kid.
Asked if she has any children of her own, Warshawski said she did, "but I killed her when she became a teen-ager."
We won't give you any more. That, combined with the bits shown in the trailer (which, in this case, do not mislead) are enough to show you how things go in this movie.
Frederick Coffin, who did some time at Center Stage, is one of the dead man's brothers. Charles McCaughan is another brother, the one who marries his ex-sister-in-law, former wife of the dead man. They are all mixed up in a plot to seize some valuable shorefront property which now belongs to the little girl.
"V.I. Warshawski," directed by Jeff Kanew, opens here today. Turner is terrific, and so is her film.
"V. I. Warshawski"
*** Kathleen Turner is a Chicago private eye whose latest date ends up dead.
CAST: Kathleen Turner, Jay. O. Sanders, Charles Durning, Angela Goethals, Stephen Meadows, Anne Pitoniak
DIRECTOR: Jeff Kanew
RATING: R (language, violence)
( RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes