In 1987, Hollywood was still trying to figure out exactly how they should market Whoopi Goldberg. She was one of the hottest comics on the scene but her first major acting gig was in a knock-out dramatic role (THE COLOR PURPLE). After bouncing around a couple of ill-conceived comedies, someone came up with the idea to market her in a similar fashion to Eddie Murphy in BEVERLY HILLS COP. Her vehicle would be FATAL BEAUTY for director Tom Holland. It wasn’t nearly as successful as the studio would have hope but looking back upon it now, it’s a fun nostalgic action film with a killer cast and several memorable set pieces.
Working the narcotics unit in L.A. is no easy task but undercover detective Rita Rizzoli (Whoopi Goldberg) is right there in the mix of things trying her best to clean up the streets. Her methods are a bit unorthodox, she tends to use a plethora of disguises as well as excessive violence, she still gets the job done. Two low-life criminals (Mike Jolly and Brad Dourif) decide they’re going to knock over a drug warehouse. What they fail to realize is the fact that the cocaine in question is super-concentrated and can kill or turn you into a raging psycho within seconds. Rizzoli is called in to help identify a body left in the mess and this leads her to investigate Conrad Kroll (Harris Yulin). The bullets begin to fly as she gets closer to the truth, help comes to her in the form of Kroll’s head bodyguard Mike Marshak (Sam Elliott). Together they will rid the streets of the tainted “Fatal Beauty” and maybe even fall in love.
FATAL BEAUTY isn’t a great film but it’s important for a couple of reasons, most notably it was the first cinematic collaboration of director Tom Holland and actor Brad Dourif. One year later they would collaborate again and create a legendary film franchise still making waves today, CHILD’S PLAY. It also delivers a hilarious performance by Whoopi. She’s really good in this film, funny and tough. The different disguises had me laughing out loud numerous times. The cast was brilliant with people like the ones mentioned above plus Ruben Blades, Sam Elliot, James Le Gross, Mark Pellegrino, and the late great John P. Ryan.
The film falters when it focuses on the completely unbelievable romance between Goldberg and Elliot. They have an energy together, just not a chemistry, if that makes any sense. The story works when it needs to and Holland did his best to deliver an entertaining film. FATAL BEAUTY is a classic, one worth revisiting and Olive Films has released a beautiful transfer of the film on Blu-Ray. The only extras on the disc is the original theatrical trailer which is better than I remembered. Whoopi Goldberg fans will most certainly want to add this to their collection to remind us just how funny she can be.