Ridley Scott was coming off of three films in a row that had been incredibly difficult shoots and went over-budget: Alien, Blade Runner and Legend. In the case of the last two, Scott went to war with the studios over the final cut of the films and lost—until his director’s cuts were finally released years later. He needed to prove to the studios that he was a responsible filmmaker and could make a more scaled-down film without all the special effects that populated his previous work. Someone to Watch Over Me was that film, and it’s a good old fashioned neo-noir. Tom Berenger plays Detective Mike Keegan, who is assigned to protect socialite Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers) after she witnesses a murder. He needs to keep her safe so she can ID the killer when they catch him. Mike is married to Ellie (Lorraine Bracco), but soon Mike and Claire start a steamy affair. Meanwhile, the killer is still on the loose.
In the disc’s extras, Howard Franklin mentions that another director was interested in making Someone to Watch Over Me, and although Franklin doesn’t name him, it’s fairly clear he is talking about Sidney Lumet. But luckily, Scott got the job. First and foremost, Franklin’s script is just garbage, basically cliché-ridden crap, but Ridley Scott directs the fuck out of it. It’s beautifully photographed by Steven Poster, who would go on to shoot every Richard Kelly film. The opening shot is beautiful: they shoot the Guggenheim like nobody ever has before, with brilliant uses of mirror shots. The direction and camera work really elevates the film from its incredibly generic ’80s thriller script.
Berenger is a actor I’ve always liked, and he can do this role in his sleep. Mimi Rogers is also very good, she is an underrated and under-appreciated actress: just watch the places she goes in her performance in The Rapture. It’s one of Lorraine Bracco’s first American roles, and she brings some heart to her rather thankless role.
Scott would follow up Someone to Watch Over Me with Black Rain, which was also a highly stylized neo-noir but set in Japan. Someone to Watch Over Me may not be the crowning jewel of his filmography—he will never top the 1-2 punch of Alien and Blade Runner (and I’m sure he is very aware of it). It’s a great example of how a filmmaker as skilled as Ridley Scott can work wonders with a mediocre script.
The disc includes interviews with screenwriter Howard Franklin and cinematographer Steven Poster, both originally recorded for the US Shout Factory! disc. The film historian Jim Hemphill supplies a newly recorded commentary track, and the theatrical trailer and a photo gallery round off the on-disc extras. The booklet contains new and archival writing on the film.