Black Widow - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Black Widow Reviews

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½ September 20, 2017
Winger wasn't really suitable for this role so it suffers points here, not to mention what an utterly ridiculous story/execution.
December 10, 2016
Federal Agent tracks a woman believed to have killed a string of rich husbands and made off with their estates. Holds interest with Russell commanding her part. Dennis Hopper has a brief appearance as one of the Black Widow's victims.
November 7, 2016
Bob Rafelson has made a few neo noirs and this is one of his most effective. Theresa Russell stars as a woman who marries rich men, murdering them in ways that don't appear to be murder shortly after their wedding. Once she liquidates their assets, she adopts a new identity and starts the process over with a new mark. Federal investigator Debra Winger stumbles onto evidence linking a couple of the murders and she obsessively pursues Russell, ultimately befriending Russell as she stalks her latest husband in Hawaii. This is a good thriller with a superb cast (Dennis Hopper, Terry O'Quinn, James Hong, Diane Ladd, Nicol Williamson ... even Mary Woronov in a tiny role) and Rafelson's slower 70's American new wave style.
½ August 28, 2016
Incredible what images are elicited by a title as intriguing as "Black Widow." Slinking into our imaginations comes a deadly woman with a gun in hand and a jungle red vile of lipstick in the other, dressed in a dark satin gown as shadows caress her face, as insanity swelters in her sphynxy eyes. Maybe she closely resembles Joan Crawford or Sharon Stone; maybe she's proud to live up to her title as a woman who mates only to kill to get ahead.
In 1987's "Black Widow," a numbingly bland neo-noir, our femme fatale in chief is Theresa Russell, who has a blank stare that rivals Gene Tierney's in "Leave Her to Heaven" but delivers her lines in such flat monotone we'd swear she were Esther Williams in a movie without water. Her black widow doesn't have a name: she's married and murdered so many times that it's impossible to know who she was before she decided that imitating Phyllis Dietrichson was her life's mission.
We first meet her moments after she's discovered that her latest husband has died. For now, she's known as Catherine Petersen. She wears a wig that suggests she secretly idolizes Carol Channing, and sheds crocodile tears for her temporary loved ones in order to keep up her masquerade. We're not so sure how many times this woman has killed prior to her short career as Mrs. Petersen, but perhaps it doesn't matter -- once she collects her late husband's cash and takes off her latest guise, she'll be moving onto her latest piece of meat.
She's evaded capture by following two simple rules. For murdering, use a poison that prompts Ondine's curse, a condition that mysteriously causes its victim to die in their sleep. For covering one's tracks, change your identity and your place of living before questions can be asked.
The routine has worked for what we'll assume has been several years, but after accidentally stumbling upon the oddity of the Petersen murder while probing an unrelated case, Justice Department agent Alex Barnes (Debra Winger) eventually begins to notice that men who have met similar ends were linked to a woman that look an awful lot like Theresa Russell. And because time is short and "Black Widow" is slightly longer than ninety minutes, it turns out that Alex is a savant of jumping to accurate conclusions -- before the glamorous serial killer in question can put her next wig on, she's discovered the name of the latter's game and becomes obsessed with bringing her to justice.
"Obsessed," probably, due to welled-up memories of a bad childhood, a tendency to live vicariously through someone with a life more dangerous than hers, or a need to satisfy the requirements of a comprehensively banal script. Because screenwriter Ronald Bass believes only in superficial motivations and confusing points of transition, I'll go with the last conclusion, even though I'd like to watch a movie without a defeatist attitude.
After enough investigating to fulfill the standard length of half a movie, Alex decides that the best way to catch Catherine/Margaret/Marielle is through hands-on action. She catches wind that her person of interest is currently in Hawaii, courting hotel magnate Paul (Sami Frey), and so she flies to the area, planning to befriend the venomous schemer and somehow obstruct her motivations. And it works -- but Alex hardly has the poise of the snaky Catherine/Margaret/Marielle/Renee, and when she begins falling for Paul herself, professional ambition gives way for personal lust.
And yet not a single one of "Black Widow's" machinations rises any sort of reaction from its audience. It wants to fit in with the films of cool kids Hitchcock and De Palma but is incapable of generating suspense, sensuality, or engagement. There are moments of inspired imagery -- flossy flashes of neon and noiry shadows provide provisionary swank -- but that's all "Black Widow" is capable of doing: elevating few and far between instances of bewitchment that cannot hide its being more Lifetime than Verhoeven.
I'm sure Winger and Russell know this movie is overcome by the putrid scent of bull shit, but kudos to them for staying committed and raking in performances that deserve a better film as its host. Because, for what it's worth, "Black Widow" is a piece of missed opportunity. It doesn't trust the mental capacity of its consumers and doesn't want to run the risk of taking a daring move. It's an erotic thriller without the eroticism and without the thrills, and we're left with a blueprint that whispers but never shouts.
½ July 24, 2016
Federal agent obsessively pursues a young woman who marries and cleverly kills a string of wealthy husbands. Not bad but fairly routine.
April 9, 2015
The actresses are fine the script sux arse.
½ March 30, 2015
Debra Winger is one of our finest actresses, and here she plays a deadly game of mental chess with Theresa Russell. Perfect for a rainy day.
November 18, 2013
Worth it to see Debra Winger facing off with Theresa Russell, though they never quite make the expected fireworks. They do have terrific chemistry though.
November 4, 2013
This is a rather ordinary mystery/potboiler in which a game of cat-and-mouse is played between two women. I said it's ordinary because there really isn't much to distinguish it from other similar movies except that the two leads are women. The acting is serviceable, and no one really gives a breakout performance. The film's greatest weakness is probably in the writing. The film starts out strong, but it's as if the writers ran out of ideas when it came to the final act. The pacing slows down a lot (and wasn't even perfect to begin with, given all of the time lapses) and the story begins to focus on a love triangle that really isn't compelling at all. Some lesbian/homoerotic tension is hinted at and, as if to give the perverts in the audience something to guffaw at, culminates in one of the quickest and most awkward kisses I've ever seen. They also don't treat the women in the film very kindly either, particularly the two leads. The only type of independent women they have are either manipulative bitches or hard-working women without much time for romantic endeavors, and both of them are presented as sex objects throughout the entire running time. Debra Winger's character is of the second type and is constantly subjected to crude comments and unwanted sexual advances, while Theresa Russell is the other type, who sees marriage as the pinnacle of her life even if she uses it to her own nefarious purpose. There are some glorified cameos by Dennis Hopper and Nicol Williamson which are entertaining. It's too bad that they weren't in the film more, but they do elevate the material somewhat in their limited screen time. Overall, I'd say this is about two thirds of a decent movie, despite the implausibility of it all.
October 7, 2013
Awesome! And awesomely bad.
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2013
Yes, we all know that the title gives us the idea that this movie will be predictable, but it's actually not! Instead of the usual Private Eye man on the case who falls in love with the lady, we get a female agent who is just as crafty as the black widow is. This is a very different and very cool thriller, and I recommend it.
½ September 15, 2013
It's still a good movie. The ending is poetic.
Super Reviewer
½ September 8, 2013
My first fundamental problem with Black Widow, was how fast Alex caught on. It completely messed up the concept of rising action, and the whole film was a long down hill slope of falling action. The film looks a feels dated. The opening scene with the main actress applying make up and looking at through a mirror, impressed me with its camera angle, but after that they stopped trying. The actresses were acclaimed in this, but I felt they played cheesy. There are a handful of sexy scenes though. While this might not be predictable, it's certainly not shocking, mainly because it lost me half way in. Just skip forward a decade and watch Basic Instinct instead.
½ August 1, 2013
Transparent although I didn't see the end coming. So so acting. Okay when nothing else going on.
June 13, 2013
A good movie on a rainy day.
March 21, 2013
CAMPY CLASSIC! This movie is straight high camp, but put together
exceedingly well. Ridiculous? Yes! Over-acted? Yes!
Eyes-glued-to-the-screen good? Yes! Keep in mind that in addition to
directing such dramatic works such as Blood & Wine, Bob Rafelson also
directed The Monkees, so you already know this is someone who
appreciates tongue-in-cheek!

Just imagine....Debra Winger as a frumpy/unattractive closet lesbian
lusting after the object of her obsession....a devastating Theresa
Russell at the pinnacle of her sultry exquisiteness. Think Jane Seymour
in East of Eden, or Lena Olin in Romeo is Bleeding and you get the
picture. Don't expect high-brow storyline here, just sheer fun!
January 27, 2013
Black Widow is an engaging and mesmerizing psychological thriller.
½ September 16, 2012
A chick flick for sure and a terrible movie by any standards BUT I love Debra Winger's transformation from frumpy FBI agent to sexy sleuth and I love watching the b*tch Therese Russell get what's coming to her.
May 20, 2012
Very good Mystery/Thriller. Winger and Russell are amazing, just wished the story didn't burn out at the end. It was like Mr. Bass just got tired and just stuck an ending that did not make much sense.
½ April 30, 2012
With the exception of the disappointing crime-doesn't-pay ending, this was a fascinating and smart thriller. Debra Winger is excellent as the frumpy FBI agent, but Theresa Russell, a good actress who's often saddled with not so good of roles, really steals the show here.
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