Someone to Watch Over Me
- Tom Berenger as Mike Keegan
- Mimi Rogers as Claire Gregory
- Lorraine Bracco as Ellie Keegan
- Jerry Orbach as Lt. Garber
- Andreas Katsulas as Joey Venza
It isn’t the best movie from Ridley Scott, but Someone to Watch Over Me is shamelessly overlooked and underrated for its atmosphere and visual style. A romantic thriller that looks at differences in lifestyle and appearance, the thriller aspect lacks but the rest of the piece, namely the acting and direction, make it a watchable and at times intriguing movie.
Mike Keegan is a recently promoted police detective who lives with his wife Ellie and young son Tommy in Queens. His marriage is stable and he is largely good at his job, so everything is going quite swimmingly. Then he gets the call to come in after a murder is committed. A criminal by the name of Joey Venza killed a businessman who he thought squeezed him out of a deal before their partnership severed and it was witnessed by the beautiful Upper East Side socialite, Claire Gregory. Mike is assigned to protect Claire and provide round the clock support as she is clearly in danger. If any evidence is brought forward, Venza will most likely be charged. Claire’s testimony is what this cast stands on and Venza makes it his priority to silence her. At first, Mike and Claire aren’t exactly friendly; his tough demeanor is at odds with her aloofness and the obvious difference in backgrounds is pretty noticeable. Yet, as he continues to watch over her, he develops romantic inclinations for her that are reciprocated. He gets a glimpse into the high life of extravagance and she lets her icy guard down. This poses obvious problems for Mike as he does really love his wife Ellie deeply, yet is unable to deny the attraction he has for Claire. At the same time, Claire is menaced by Venza, who threatens to kill her if she talks anymore about what she saw him do. Add to this situation the fact that Ellie is growing very wary of Mike’s devotion to the case, and things look like they will be very complex for everyone here.
The film is directed with exceptional finesse by Ridley Scott, whose stamp of luscious and enviable imagery and depth of cinematic quality is in good supply. There is a real elegance to Scott’s direction that juxtaposes the glamour of the Upper East Side with the working class Queens to striking effect, while giving that sheen of sophistication you can always count on in something directed by Ridley Scott. He knows how to visually bring out the themes at hand, here it is someone from the outside looking in along with society and lifestyles, that are rendered with impressive results. Now while Someone to Watch Over Me is billed as a romantic thriller, the elements of thriller can sometimes be a bit lacking. That isn’t to say there isn’t any tension or suspense because there is, but the main focus is more the unlikely romance between Mike and Claire than just action. The film functions better as a study of two people who are almost opposite in every respect unusually finding a mutual attraction in possibly dangerous circumstances. That’s where the real force of the film lies, despite it being straightforward and displaying parts that are a bit implausible. If you concentrate more on the romance aspects and the look at people, Someone to Watch Over Me is frequently quite riveting and engaging. The main thing that marks the movie down in my estimation, despite it being still very watchable, is that is lacks the special something that Ridley Scott movies usually have. Despite this hiccup, the smoky atmosphere leaves a lot to be thankful for, helped in no small part due to the lovely jazz music that features heavily. The growing attraction between Claire and Mike is kept to a classy level which actually makes it more interesting because of the subtlety, you didn’t need overly sexual scenes to convey their sparks.
Tom Berenger fares well as the tough guy who unexpectedly finds himself straying from the marriage bed by someone who is completely out of his league. Berenger finds the right understated note to play Mike, that allows him to be cynical and hard-boiled on the job and more sensitive when the occasion calls. The beautiful Mimi Rogers has the class and poise for Claire, while underscoring that for all the glamour she has, houses a void of loneliness that is suggested through Rogers’ subtle face. She has become accustomed to this life of privilege and enjoys it, but with everything going on, she finds companionship of an unusual sort with Mike that allows her to open up. Her quiet and fearful demeanor are played extremely well by Rogers in a way that is understated and demure. But the best performance in Someone to Watch Over Me comes from Lorraine Bracco. As the dutiful but outspoken wife of Mike, she nails the suspicion and attitude of the woman, who knows that something is definitely not right and wants answers. Bracco has an unpretentious and open delivery which coalesces with the heart of Ellie to form a well-tuned piece of work, from what could have been a throwaway part of a wallflower. Jerry Orbach is fun to watch in a supporting role of grizzled police lieutenant who appoints the job of watching Claire to Mike, while Andreas Katsulas has a face made for a villain that is used very effectively as the criminal trying to eliminate any chance of a life sentence.
So while the story is quite simplistic and some of the thrills could have had a bit more punch, Someone to Watch Over Me should be more well-known and appreciated for the stylish way that Ridley Scott shoots it and brings it to life.