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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 THE BEHOLDER. 

The Package 
     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 Story
     “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. 

The Direction
     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.

Vital Statistics 

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

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