V.I. Warshawski

As inelegant as its title. As Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski, the Chicago detective from Sara Paretsky’s popular mystery series, Kathleen Turner wears gorgeous dresses that are forever getting messed up; didn’t it occur to anyone on this film that a woman in V.I.’s line of work might opt for clothing less inhibitive of movement — sweats, perhaps? (The V.I. of the books isn’t a fashion plate.) In the script, a shoddy synthesis of some of the books, a snotty little girl (Angela Goethals) hires V.I. to find out who killed her father. Thus a potentially great movie heroine becomes maternal and protective, and Turner can’t get her bearings in the role; the very qualities that make her a serviceable V.I. — gutsiness, brassiness — render her entirely unconvincing as a mom figure. Turner does put a spin on the rote castration jokes, and she’s fun when she’s decking people. The film reaches climax during the opening credits, when director Jeff Kanew pans over Turner’s drop-dead legs. This was to be the first in a series of V.I. detective comedies, but it tanked — badly. Which is probably why you haven’t seen any major motion pictures based on Sue Grafton or Patricia Cornwell. A similar attempt 21 years later, One for the Money, based on Janet Evanovich’s popular series, didn’t fly either. I pictured Turner watching the trailer for that and snorting, “Bitch, if I couldn’t do it…”

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