The SFPD arrive on the scene and the most beautiful line of the whole film is delivered by a nameless crime scene technician, who whistles in mock disbelief before observing "there's cum aaaalllll over these sheets." Detective Nick Curran (Douglas) is assigned to the case with his partner Gus (Dzundza). Their first line of inquiry is Boz's girlfriend, Catherine Tramell (Stone), who, in addition to being an orphaned heiress, is a published author and an alumnus of UC Berkeley's psychology program. Nick and Gus head to Catherine's mansion, only to be told by her sidepiece Roxy (Leilani Sarelle) that Catherine is "out at the beach house in Stinson." The cops head up the coast to a spectacular hillside beach house, where we see Catherine for the first time: stunning, cool, and seemingly disinterested in the murder of her lover- her greatest regret over his death, apparently, is that she will no longer get to fuck him. "I liked fucking him," she clarifies, helpfully.
Back at the station, Nick endures his mandated therapy session with the force's psychiatrist, Dr. Beth Garner (Tripplehorn). Their sessions are one of the lingering consequences of a little fracas in which Nick snorted some booger sugar and shot up a few tourists. It's a bad habit he has; at one point it is casually mentioned that Nick's been involved in four shootings in the past five years. In fact, his wildly reassuring nickname on the force is 'Shooter.' Tying the bow of professionalism on this mess of hot garbage is the fact that Nick and Beth were once romantically linked, after the suicide of Nick's wife.
The police focus their investigation on Catherine: it appears that her novel, rather suspiciously, details the murder of a retired rock star at the hands of his ice pick-wielding girlfriend. Nick and Gus are dispatched to fetch Catherine from the beach house and bring her in for further questioning. On the winding drive back into the city, Catherine taunts and flirts with Nick, much to Gus' bafflement, and discusses a new book she's writing, the main character of which is an SFPD cop investigating a murder. Flaunting the nascent no-smoking policies of the era, Catherine lights up in the interrogation room and then, in a second or two of tape that has surely been worn thin on thousands of VHS copies over the years, she uncrosses and re-crosses her legs, briefly flashing the assembled male (of course) detectives and prosecutors in the room a glimpse of her immaculately-groomed vulva.
After breezily acing a polygraph test, Catherine requests a ride to her 'city house' from Nick. During a flirtatious drive to her Pacific Heights mansion, Catherine seems to demonstrate an uncanny depth of knowledge about Nick's past and personal problems. Nick returns to his co-workers, now assembled at the bar, where he is confronted by his his superior officer, Lieutenant Nilson (Daniel von Bargen, perhaps best known as Commandant Edwin Spangler in Malcolm in the Middle) over his drinking. Beth arrives just in time to defuse a fight between the two; Nick thanks her by taking her home and raping her. Beth mentions afterwards that she knew Catherine ("hardly") when they were both undergrads at UC Berkeley.
The next day at HQ, the detectives learn that one of Catherine's Berkeley professors was killed while she was a student there. What's more, the murder weapon was an ice pick! Nick's colleagues chase the clue while Nick is told to trail Catherine. Following a nail-biting chase along the cliff-hugging coastal highway, Nick finds Catherine's car in a quiet little town, where she is meeting with a seemingly sweet old lady. Nick checks the sweet old lady's mailbox and learns that her name is Hazel Dobkins. Catherine loses Nick's trail after she leaves Hazel's house, but he makes it back to her beach house in time to watch her undress through the window like a creeper. Nick retreats to the office to look up Hazel Dobkins in the criminal database, but it turns out he doesn't need to: Gus remembers all too well working the case when Hazel killed her husband and their two children.
The next day, Nick returns to the beach house, announcing his presence this time. Catherine invites him to join her for a drink, over which she discusses her forthcoming book, teasing Nick by revealing that the main character will be based on him and further insinuating that she knows his deepest, darkest secrets. Back at police HQ, Nick flies into Beth's office in a rage, accusing her of leaking his psychological file. She admits that Nilson requested his file, and so Nick finds Nilson and flies off the handle at him as well, accusing him of selling information to Catherine. It's bad timing for Nick to have a threatening blow-out with Nilson, because Nilson turns up dead later that night, shot in the head with a department-issued gun.
The next day, Nick wakes alone. Catherine has left him a note that she's at the beach house, where he drives out to meet her. Roxy storms off jealously when he arrives.
Later that evening, Nick finds Gus in a western bar, hollering incomprehensibly about pussy. He takes him across the lot to a diner to eat food and sober up, and holler incomprehensibly about pussy. Nick attempts to prevent Gus from driving drunk, but the two shove each other and giggle like school children, and Gus wedges himself behind the wheel with a triumphant shout of "I ain't lettin' no... head-up-his-ass... person drive my car!" [good one] Nick watches the drunk man drive off, chuckling and shaking his head. That Gus!
Suddenly, a car lunges out of the shadows and hits Nick-- it's Catherine's black Lotus! He runs for his car and a chase through the city ensues. Nick is almost run off the road by Catherine's racing vehicle, but when he wins a final game of chicken, the Lotus tumbles into a construction pit. However, the dead driver who rolls out of the crashed car is not Catherine, but Roxy, her jealous lover.
Nick and Gus look into Roxy's background and determine that as a juvenile, she murdered her family. Catherine sure likes to hang around murderers! Acting on a hunch, Nick looks into the woman who Single White Female'd Catherine and sees that she changed her name... to nothing less than Elizabeth Garner. When confronted, Beth confirms to Nick that she and Catherine had had a one-night stand on college, but accuses Catherine of being the one to pull a SWF. Nick, digging further into Beth's background, learns her husband had been shot to death and the gunman never caught.
Suddenly, Catherine's a cold fish- she explains to Nick that her book is done and, therefore, so are they. Nick hardly has time to brood before Gus grabs him and takes him across the bridge- he's gotten a hot tip from Catherine's college roommate, and she promises the full scoop on Catherine and Beth. Once in Oakland, Gus insists Nick stay in the car, as he's technically still on leave. Realizing it's a trap, Nick rushes into the building too late, finding Gus stabbed to death in the elevator. Beth suddenly appears, claiming to have gotten a message to show up at the building. When she refuses to show her hands to Nick, he shoots her- only to find the spare keys to his apartment clutched in her pocket instead of a weapon. Nick feels like a real ass, until Beth's murder disguise is found in a nearby stairwell by responding officers. A search of her apartment turns up further damning clues. Nick and the rest of the team feel they've got it pretty much wrapped up on crazy killer Elizabeth Garner.
Nick returns home to find Catherine waiting for him yet again. She apologizes for her behavior and they wind up in bed yet again. Once again she reaches back, seeming to search for something in the sheets behind her, then flings herself forward onto Nick. Another fakeout! As they sweet talk, she reaches down below the bed for something but pauses at the crucial moment. Again she flings herself onto him; again, she is empty-handed. Finally, the camera pans down to the floor next to the bed to reveal what Catherine had been reaching for... the ice pick!!!!!eleven!!
With this in mind, it's strange to me that for the part of the movie actually set in nearby Salinas, only 30 minutes from Carmel, two different North Bay locations (Rohnert Park and San Rafael) were used instead. Even Petaluma, where Hazel Dobkins lives, is designated 'Mill Valley' in the film. In fact, the only location outside of San Francisco that is actually shot where it purports to be is the film's climax in Oakland.
While it should be obvious to anyone living and breathing in the 21st century that this particular film's take on bisexuality is a tad sensationalist and a lot outdated, I can only hope and pray that this is also a wildly inaccurate portrayal of how the SFPD regularly conducts business. Then again, all signs point to disappointment.
The film opens in San Francisco's extremely posh Pacific Heights neighborhood, where both Johnny Boz and Catherine Tramell live. Johnny's mansion is at 2104 Broadway, just two and a half blocks from the Mrs. Doubtfire house.
The chase, which starts in this fictional parking lot between the fictional bar and the fictional diner, then leaps from the alleys of SoMa to the hills of North Beach. Everything about this scene is hilariously wrong, except for the Le Car chilling out in the background, which is hilariously right. Not only does Nick drive the wrong way up this one-way street on the sidewalk, which is so steep it requires stairs, he does so after careening out of a dead-end driveway (Dunne's Alley) as if it were a through street. This block of Kearny is very popular with filmmakers; last month's movie Foul Play shot a scene here, as did the subject of my most recent Quick Take, Diary of a Teenage Girl. You can expect a return to this area in many more future posts. Parklets may soon be coming to make the street a bit wigglier and to completely curtail illegal double-parking; their proposed locations have been marked in green spray paint in the 2015 photos.
As mentioned previously, two North Bay towns stand in for Salinas when Nick is investigating Beth's past. An outer building at Dominican University in San Rafael, about 18 miles north of San Francisco, was used as the Monterey County Sheriff's Department; and St. Joseph's Urgent Care Center in Rohnert Park (seen below), an additional 31 miles north of San Rafael, was relabeled Salinas Medical Clinic.
Authenticity: 4/10- A flight attendant who says "Welcome to San Fran!"
Millennial Starlet Analog: Miley Cyrus. "LOOK. SEX." We get it, Miley, you're a grown-up now.
Overall: 6/10- Shock, schlock, and nostalgia overwhelm the weak plot to make this movie "so bad it's kind of okay."