Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Fatal Beauty (1987)

August 20, 2012

Fatal Beauty (1987) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

Whoopi Goldberg from Sister Act, Ghost and Burglar stars as narcotics cop Rita Rizzoli in Fatal Beauty, an action-comedy from the late 80’s. She’s a tough-talking, no-nonsense woman who knows how to get shit done. We start off by seeing her in disguise as she’s trying to bust a local drug dealer. But as is always the case, things go wrong and the dealer, named Delgadillo, ends up getting away. He deals in a new designer drug known as Fatal Beauty and runs his business out of an old storage room, with a couple of Chinese workers mixing the drugs for him.

One of workers gets stoned out of his mind one night and mixes the drug wrong. But before they can rectify the problem, they themselves get hit by rival drug dealers and the drugs are stolen. So we now have a potentially lethal batch of Fatal Beauty hitting the streets, causing people to end up either psychotic or dead. The cops are fighting a futile battle to get the drugs off of the streets and Rizzoli has been after one big-shot dealer in particular, for a long time.

His name is Conrad Kroll (played by a recognizable actor named Harris Yulin seen in Ghostbusters II and Murder at 1600) and appears to be a very successful businessman. Rizzoli is going to need solid evidence against him if she’s ever going to be able to bring him in. But she can’t even go near him without getting crap from her superiors.

See what I mean about that smirk?

See what I mean about that smirk?

During one such attempt to talk to Kroll, Rizzoli encounters his head of security, Mike Marshak, who’s played by an actor whom I’ve always liked, Sam Elliott. You know him from such diverse movies as Mask, Road House, Tombstone and The Big Lebowski. He has a way of looking at people with a little smirk on his face, which just makes him very likeable and also makes him the embodiment of coolness! Marshak starts following Rizzoli around, partly because his boss has told him to and partly because he likes being around her.

Mr. Kroll having a pool-side chat with Rita.

Mr. Kroll having a pool-side chat with Rita.

Fatal Beauty is one of those great buddy-cop, action-comedies that came out in the 80’s. Some of them were pretty bad and didn’t really work, because the balance was off between the comedy and action. Others, like Fatal Beauty and Running Scared, managed to find a good balance between the laughs and thrills.

Goldberg’s Rita Rizzoli is a tough-talking cop who’s quick with a snarky retort, and the way Whoopi Goldberg plays her, she comes off natural and doesn’t feel contrived in any way.

Let me give you an example: In the beginning when she’s undercover as a hooker, she goes into this bar and asks for a drink. The bartender asks her if she wants a glass, to which she replies… “Do I want a glass? No, wrap it in a taco, you dumb motherfucker. Of course I want a glass!” The way she looks at him and says it is just hilarious!

Leo and Earl blasting away!

Leo and Earl blasting away!

Another movie which has this kind of great dialogue and character, is Beverly Hills Cop. Axel Foley, played by Eddie Murphy, and Rita Rizzoli are quite similar and it felt like Fatal Beauty was the female equivalent to Beverly Hills Cop, which I think is a good thing since I’m a fan of both movies.

The bartender I mentioned earlier is played by Cheech Marin in a small cameo. You do know who he is, right? From Dusk Till Dawn? Nash Bridges? The Cheech & Chong movies?

There are many good actors in Fatal Beauty apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned. Ruben Blades (Disorganized Crime, Predator 2) is Detective Jimenez. Charles Hallahan (The Thing, Dante’s Peak) is Deputy Getz. John P. Ryan (It’s Alive, Three O’Clock High, Runaway Train) is Lieutenant Kellerman. And as Leo Nova, one of the psycho drug dealers, is Brad Dourif. Mr. Dourif is a favorite actor of mine and has done a lot of great roles in movies such as Dune, The Exorcist III and Mississippi Burning. He’s also, as many of you know, the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play movies.

Does this gun go with my hair?

Does this gun go with my hair?

And when I say psycho drug dealers, I mean it, because Leo and his “associate” Earl are at least one or two beers short of a six-pack. I don’t mean that they’re stupid (well, maybe Earl is a little bit), no, I mean that they’re psychopaths with no respect for human life at all! Leo is the leader of the two and Earl is his enforcer, and in one scene he chews glass to drive home his point. It works, by the way!

I like Fatal Beauty! It has a good story, nothing complicated of course, the characters are interesting enough, and it has a good solid 80’s soundtrack. The little love story between Whoopi Goldberg and Sam Elliott’s characters, is a nice touch. It’s kind of sweet, funny and I thought it came off very natural. I can’t really put my finger on what it is with this movie, but they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

This was director Tom Holland’s second theatrical feature. His first was Fright Night and his third was Child’s Play, I believe, so he had a good first run in the 80’s. He did a few duds later on, but hey… they can’t all be great, right?

One final note before I leave you to tell me what you thought of Fatal Beauty… You know how the main cop in these movies always has to drive around in a piece-of-junk car? Well, Rita Rizzoli drives a shitty, pink Mustang! That squeaks!

Until next time my friends…


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