Two girls, the innocent Tracy and the not-so-innocent Scarlet, are caught in a brutal escapade of mistaken identity, accused of a crime they didn't commit and will do anything to stay alive. Cinematography by Kees Van Oostrum (Gettysburg, Gods and Generals).
When you're awaiting your arraignment at court, you inevitably meet some interesting characters accused of a variety of crimes. On one side of the room, there's career prostitute Scarlet (Tatum O'Neal). After multiple run-ins with the law, Scarlet is looking at some serious time. At the other side of the room is Tracy Freeman (Irene Cara). The daughter of an esteemed doctor (Moses Gunn), Tracy comes from a life of privilege who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time for a slight crime. When another pair of female prisoners take the courtroom hostage and turn it into a shooting gallery, Tracy and Scarlett naturally flee the chaos. Unfortunately for them, they happen to match the description of the two women who just killed dozens of people. With hard-edged unforgiving cop Lt. Speier (George Murdock) as well as a scumbag called Sniffer (Nicholas Campbell) after them, Scarlett and Tracy find themselves caught between both sides of the law with nowhere to go.
If Stephen Gyllenhaal's 1985 film Certain Fury had been made by low-budget amateur filmmakers in the late 1960s early 1970s, the film's various traits from rampant bloodletting and gratuitous violence would fit for a cheap exploitation flick. It's got an undeniably appealing trashy quality and entertains on that level. When someone's head literally explodes in a bright red chunky tidal wave of gore and spills over onto a hapless innocent bystander, you feel like you're in for a great gory ride.
Then the film takes a stab at sentimentality, trying to convince us Scarlett and Tracy are good girls gone bad who, caught in a tough situation, learn to overcome their socio-economic differences to become besties. Unfourtunately, these plunges into the depths of human existence are trite, obvious, and underwhelming, not to mention they run in stark contrast to scenes like Tracy having to fend off Sniffer during a prolonged attempted rape sequence.
Certain Fury is a difficult film to know how to feel about.
At times I quite enjoyed it, especially when it would go full-on cheap exploitation movie. During these parades of intense gore and violence, Certain Fury feels like the bastard child of a Golan/Globus production that would star Michael Dudikoff and some other aging action star of the 60s and 70s as they chase down two ladies into the seedy underworld of New York (but shot in London for budget constraints).
On the flip side, it tries too earnestly to be a stark and analytical character drama between two people from different sides of the tracks. Neither element works that well, as the shifting tones from comedic violence to over-acted heartfelt drama gives the film a bit of whiplash. It feels almost like Director Stephen Gyllenhaal (Father of Maggie and Jake) lacked the confidence to make a full-on exploitation movie, or was pushed into adding more violence and gore to appease investors after failing to make a true-to-heart character drama. Either way, Gyllenhaal doesn't appear to have a handle on the material and the film tends to get away from him.
Irene Cara and Tatum O'Neal may have won hearts and Oscar Voters' minds for Flashdance and Paper Moon, respectively, but they don't exactly earn themselves many accolades with Certain Fury. Without getting too far into it, neither fills their individual characters' shoes very well. O'Neal is too clean cut and tries way too hard to be dirty to play a convincing lifetime prostitution offender. At the same time, Cara doesn't pull off the innocent rich girl caught in the seedy city act very well. As a result, their inevitable friendship and character reckonings feel like the result of watching a hyper-violent Hallmark Channel movie of the week. I'll admit that I enjoyed watching Certain Fury, but I feel like I enjoyed it for the wrong reasons. I really wish this film was good on its own merits. If it had just kept to the hyper-violent antics and stopped trying to force the audience to feel a connection to its leading ladies, there might have been something to this little yarn. As a result, Certain Fury is an inconsistent mess that doesn't always satisfy.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Certain Fury arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A locked BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case with reversible cover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
With a 1.85:1 1080p transfer, this new HD remaster leaves Certain Fury looking pretty decent for a subpar 80s flick. Source elements are in decent shape -- some speckling persists throughout, but it's otherwise clean and damage free. Grain is apparent without looking smoothed out or too noisy. It's only ever really present during some of the darker night shoot sequences. Colors are lively without being too lifelike. They have a faded quality to them that still allows for some primary pop but don't leap off the screen either. Black levels are even throughout creating an appreciable sense of depth and dimension. The image does contend with some slightly hot contrast issues from time to time as whites can look just too white and a sort of haziness keeps some scenes from enjoying any real depth. Overall this is a fine presentation with only a few minor quibbles to complain about.
With a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, Certain Fury ends up with a middling audio mix. It's not great, it's not terrible, it just is. Dialogue is relatively clean and clear throughout, but certain sequences in sewers other dirty loud areas of the city contain way too much dialogue for their own good. It's hard to hear what's being said when rushing water or gunfire erupts and the gals start having a meaningful conversation. Sound effects and scoring help give some space to the film and provide a sense of atmosphere, but again, during the bigger action sequences or for example, the drug den fire, there can be just too much noise to appreciate what anyone is saying. There is some slight hiss, but it doesn't dominate the mix. Again, this isn't terrible, it's serviceable and gets the job done.
Not much for Bonus Materials, but there is an informative Commentary track and a nice selection of trailers.
Audio Commentary. Film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer give the film a just dissection.
Certain Fury is probably best viewed as an oddity. A film that means well but can't rise above its exploitation tendencies. If you're going into the film for some blood and guts with some questionable taste levels, Certain Fury should be your jam. If you're approaching this film hoping for a great showcase of dramatic acting and storytelling, I'm afraid you'll be left out in the cold. It's 80s trashy filmmaking at its best and worst. Kino Lorber brings Certain Fury Blu-ray in fine order sporting a solid video transfer and a decent enough audio mix. An audio commentary and some trailers round out the bonus content. Under the right circumstances, Certain Fury is absolutely worth a look, just don't demand too much from it.