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MOVIE REVIEW : Whoopi Can't Save a Rickety 'Fatal Beauty'

October 30, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

Here comes Whoopi! She's all flash and sass as an undercover cop in "Fatal Beauty" (citywide), a rickety, ultra-bloody star vehicle that allows Goldberg to strut all her outrageous stuff and also to try to sock over a strong anti-drug message. Whoopi is fun, but the picture self-destructs on several counts and succumbs to hypocrisy in trying to preach against drugs while exploiting violence to the hilt.

The title of this slam-bam action-comedy refers to the brand name of a stolen quantity of tainted, lethal cocaine that Goldberg's LAPD detective character Rita Rizzoli is trying to get her hands on. For all her tough talk and swift retorts, Rita is very serious about doing her bit to stamp out drugs. She's even covered the walls of her office with every drug victim she has ever encountered.

Messages aside, "Fatal Beauty," which was written by Hilary Henkin and Dean Riesner and directed by Tom Holland, is a sub-standard shoot'em-up. It makes a fatal assault on credibility in Rita's burgeoning relationship with Sam Elliott's Mike Marshak, head of security for a high-living drug kingpin (Harris Yulin). There is precious little in the film to establish Mike's attraction to the spiky, reflexively emasculating Rita. There's every reason to expect that at the payoff Mike will turn out to be a government narcotics agent. When this doesn't prove to be the case, the film becomes senseless and undercuts Rita's integrity as a crusader against drugs. She refuses an expensive gown from Mike because she says it was purchased with dope money yet goes ahead and becomes romantically involved with him.

It's lucky that Elliott has a sexy, laid-back quality to provide contrast to Goldberg's high-intensity presence because Mike is no more than a cipher. Brad Dourif and Mike Jolly are the crazies spreading the Fatal Beauty coke. Ruben Blades is Rita's partner, and Jennifer Warren plays a society matron who exchanges blows with Rita before shaping up. These and others are solid, but their parts are one-dimensional.

"Fatal Beauty" was MPAA-rated X for its strong language and bloody massacres but won an R on an appeal without any cuts. Alas, its heavy dose of four-letter words and violence have in fact long been routine on the screen. However, it's an ironic commentary, intended or not, that a film that boasts enough gunfire for a small war has Code era chasteness--indeed, a downright coyness--in its depiction of a romance between a man and a woman who happen to be of different races.

'FATAL BEAUTY' An MGM/UA release of an MGM production. Producer Leonard Kroll. Director Tom Holland. Screenplay Hilary Henkin, Dean Riesner; story by Bill Svanoe. Camera David M. Walsh. Production designer James William Newport. Costumes Aggie Guerard Rodgers. Music Harold Faltermeyer. Stunt coordinator Walter Scott. Film editor Don Zimmerman. With Whoopi Goldberg, Ruben Blades, Harris Yulin, John P. Ryan, Jennifer Warren, Brad Dourif, Mike Jolly, Charles Hallahan, David Harris, James Le Gros.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.

MPAA-rated: R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).

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