A lackluster French thriller notable for its
intriguing premise, bequeathed by Marc Behm’s stunning source novel, and an
unforgettable performance by Isabelle Adjani. Beyond that, about the best I can
say for the film is that its leagues better than the Hollywood remake THE EYE OF
This film’s US video release uses the original French title MORTELLE
RANDONNEE, which sounds far more prestigious than the English translation DEADLY
RUN. It’s the latter moniker, however, that best conveys this uninspiring 1982
film’s overall feel.
In direct contrast to 1999’s lousy THE EYE OF THE
BEHOLDER, with its hopelessly miscast leads (Ewan McGregor and
Ashley Judd, both
far too young), DEADLY RUN at least has French superstar Isabelle Adjani, pitch
perfect as a murderous femme fatale. Adjani, whose off-screen mood swings are
nearly as famous as her film roles, always performed most memorably as a
madwoman, as demonstrated in THE STORY OF ADELE H., POSSESSION and ONE DEADLY
SUMMER, and Adjani’s alluring yet deeply menacing turn in DEADLY RUN is a worthy
addition to her repertoire.
The real problem with DEADLY RUN and its Hollyweird remake--as well as the
1987 non-thriller BLACK WIDOW, which is widely alleged to have been “inspired”
by the same source material--is that they make it difficult to convince people
of the brilliance of Marc Behm’s unfairly neglected 1980 novel THE EYE OF THE
BEHOLDER. Unlike the films, it’s a triumph of style and imagination, with an
intensity and psychological acuity that would seem to make for a great movie;
it’s a testament to the book’s originality, I guess, that, despite the best
efforts of filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, a great (or even good) film
adaptation has yet to materialize.
“The Eye” is a middle aged private detective commissioned to investigate a
distraught woman’s philandering husband. He follows the man to a carnival,
where he discovers that the guy is indeed cheating on his wife with the
seductive Catherine, who, it turns out, looks an awful lot like The Eye’s
long-lost daughter. The Eye follows Catherine and her lover back to a luxurious
hotel and the next morning spies Catherine dumping the man’s body in a lake.
She’s brutally murdered him, as it turns out, and there are plenty more
killings to come. The Eye informs his superiors that he’s lost track of his
charge and from then on spends his days and nights spying on Catherine’s
activities, which come to include the murders of a wealthy man and a lesbian.
At one point The Eye even helps Catherine by surreptitiously dumping one of her
victims in a seaside well. But when Catherine meets a kind-hearted blind man
she begins to lose her murderous edge; the Eye, now every bit as unhinged as the
object of his obsession, won’t stand for this break in the routine and kills the
blind man in a carefully arranged “accident.”
From there Catherine hits the road with The Eye in hot pursuit, now
believing that Catherine not only closely resembles but really is his
daughter and so must be protected at all costs. After another couple murders
The Eye finally confronts Catherine at a restaurant and gets her to go out with
him. She cuts short the date, however, when his questions grow too personal,
taking off in her car for a final deadly run.
Claude Miller has directed a number of French thrillers, some memorable and
some not so. This film falls into the latter category.
I found it far too leisurely for its own good, with a shaky narrative that
in the beginning is tenuously held together by the main character’s musings
about his life and career (often to subsidiary characters standing nearby) and
in the end by an off-screen narrator who unexpectedly materializes to fill in
the blanks. In the murder sequences Miller tries for a Hitchockian methodology,
but falls far short of his goal, ending up with a lot of cheesy and frankly
rather fake looking gore. The overwrought jazz score is another liability.
As I said earlier, Isabelle Adjani is the reason to see this film. She
makes her underwritten character chillingly believable, and furthermore looks
eye-popping in her many costume changes and, yes, nude scenes. Adjani, in an
early carnival scene, also has one of the most unforgettable introductions of a
pivotal character in any movie I’ve seen in some time.
DEADLY RUN (MORTELLE RANDONNEE)
Telema + TF1 Films Production
Director: Claude Miller
Producer: Bernard Grenet
Screenplay: Michael Audiard, Jacques Audiard
(Based on a novel by Marc Behm)
Cinematography: Pierre Lhomme
Editor: Albert Jurgenson
Cast: Michel Serrault, Isabelle Adjani, Guy Marchand, Stephen Audran, Patrick
Bouchitey, Sami Frey, Genvieve Page