Black Widow | Chicago Reader

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Rated R · 103 minutes

Drama, Thriller
Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces) came out of hibernation with this 1987 tale of a federal agent (Debra Winger) on the trail of a deadly sexual predator (Theresa Russell) who invariably murders the wealthy men she marries. Rafelson intends a psychological thriller with obsessional undercurrents, though his stylistic preferences run more toward elegant inertia than overheated delirium. The film is intelligently crafted but languorously hollow, and Rafelson's hints of psychosexual complication never quite deliver on their promise. The location work is moodily effective but perfunctorily integrated into the story (e.g., Rafelson establishes a widow's-web metaphor in a brooding volcanic landscape, then lets the image drop completely), and the noirish suggestions sometimes seem little more than incidental postcards mailed in from Seattle and Hawaii. Quite a bit of good work overall, but anomie finally wins out over interconnection, and cleverness over personal conviction. With Dennis Hopper and Diane Ladd.

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