Picks and Pans Review: Chicago Joe and the Showgirl

updated 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/13/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Emily Lloyd, Kiefer Sutherland

There are too many bogged-down moments in this film about an American soldier in World War II London who goes on a pathetic crime spree in the company—and at the behest—of a young, thrill-seeking British stripteaser.

But if you're in the mood for a movie that offers a cerebral change of pace, there are some ideas here—about how susceptible people can be to illusions when they want badly enough to believe them and about women's ability to influence men—and some effective, convincingly crazy acting by Lloyd (Cookie, In Country) and Sutherland (Flashback).

She plays the amoral stripper who's obsessed with American gangster movies; he's the soldier who tells her he is Lt. Ricky Allen, even though he is known to one of her street-tough friends as Chicago Joe. When he also tells her he is in England working for Al Capone, she begins to see him as the man of her dreams, which is to say George Raft or James Cagney.

That's where the bogging-down comes in, since both Lloyd and Sutherland keep changing in and out of gangster/moll appearance. One second he'll have his uniform on, the next second he'll be wearing a pinstriped mobster's suit with fedora. She changes from normal street clothes to what looks like an Apache dancer's outfit. This is all going on in Lloyd's mind, but the audience is seeing the changes too, so that even after it becomes clear that this is all Lloyd's fantasy, the whole business continues to seem obtrusive.

That's particularly true since director Bernard (Paper-house) Rose and writer David (Beyond Reasonable Doubt) Yallop are at pains to stress that their movie is based on a real incident, with no names or incidents changed. (The participants were Pvt. Karl Gustav Hulten of the 101st Airborne Division and dancer Betty Jones.)

There are, nonetheless, a number of disturbingly realistic moments when Lloyd goads Sutherland into committing a series of vicious crimes, then cavorts gloatingly even as the victims' blood is still flowing. Much is also made of the fact that Lloyd won't agree to have sex with Sutherland—and neither will his very straight English fiancée, Patsy (Lethal Weapon 2) Kensit—although it's not clear whether Rose and Yallop are arguing that physical frustration is what makes Sutherland so readily manipulated by women.

Inclusion of a clip from Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder's classic treatise on woman's inhumanity to man (with Barbara Stanwyck wielding Fred MacMurray), suggests there is in fact a be-hind-every-bad-man-there's-a-bad-woman point being made about women's ability to inspire evil without taking responsibility for it. There's clearly more than a little irony to it when Lloyd tells Sutherland, "I never thought I'd meet a man who could chart his own destiny."

The events that surround all this implicit philosophizing won't send anyone home smiling, but they'd make pretty good fodder for a discussion on the way home, along the lines of whose fault it really is when Dad speeds or fudges a bit on the income tax. (R)

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