Fever (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Marcia Gay Harden, who is three years short of 50 as I write this, has
come to be a respected and awarded actress (two Oscar nominations, one
win) by playing a certain familiar type of character. If you are a guy
you know this character very well. She's the sincere, intelligent,
lonely woman that you meet at a party and can't get rid of because
she's had a second glass of Chablis and can't distinguish between
genuine interest and simple civility. She occupies you with the usual
boilerplate comments about global warming, corporate irresponsibility,
and her fear of growing old, and she just keeps nattering on and on,
although you mutter only an occasional laconic response. She's
attractive enough, probably used to be a looker, but you are a guy
after all, so while you feign interest in her, you are actually
thinking about breaking free and hitting on the short-bus chick who
looks like Anna Kournikova. Sound familiar? The
world is full of those women. I know at least four women who would be
played by Marcia Gay Harden, in the unlikely event they would do
anything or know anybody interesting enough to attract a
Well, believe it or not, there was actually a time when you would have been thinking of breaking free from some other sincere woman to hit on Marcia Gay Harden. She caught the eye of the film world in 1990 with her sultry performance in a Coen Brothers film, Miller's Crossing, and proceeded to get cast in some sexy leading parts for a couple of years. She was even cast as Ava Gardner in a TV movie about Sinatra!
This period virtually drove her once-promising film career into total obscurity. The problem wasn't that she lacked the looks or talent to handle the roles, but that she never got to strut her stuff in a decent movie. If you look at the ranked IMDb list of her top ten films, you'll see that none of them were made in the five or six years after Miller's Crossing.
She spent a substantial portion of that period establishing credibility as a stage actress. She was nominated for a Tony for her performance in "Angels in America," playing the character that Mary-Louise Parker portrayed in the cable series. When Harden did make movies, however, they seemed to be mediocre ones. She would not really get her movie career going again until she re-emerged as a character actress.
Fever is one of the mediocre films she made in that sexy period.
It's a thriller and the premise is gimmicky. Armand Assante plays a paroled convict who wants to go straight. He returns to his ex-girlfriend (Harden) only to find that she is living with a sweet mild-mannered lawyer (Sam Neill). "Not very thrilling or gimmicky," you say? Does it sound like it belongs on the Oxygen Network? Be patient. I'm getting to the gimmicky conflict. A bunch of baddies from the con's past want him to use his talents to commit some crimes for them, so they kidnap the girlfriend as leverage. The con thus has to commit the crimes in order to save her life, a task made far more complicated by the fact that the wimpy lawyer insists on tagging along.
Fever isn't a bad watch for a non-theatrical actioner/thriller. There are some guilty pleasures. Late in the film, for example, there is a scene in which a psycho kidnapper cuts off Marcia Harden's bra, and that is damned hot. The film also has some interesting character development. The Armand Assante part is quite interesting. He's a tough and ruthless criminal, but also a complicated multi-dimensional man who really loves his ex. As the film progresses, we see more and more of the criminal's strengths revealed, while we see the lawyer descend deeper and deeper into the world of violent criminals, all the while surprising himself with how easy it is to revert to savage behavior, and how pleasurable it can be.
Given some strengths and a pretty good cast, I don't think you'll find Fever unbearable if you happen to run into it on cable or something. On the other hand, I would not recommend that you make an effort to seek it out, for three reasons:
The DVD is not worth acquiring. In addition to the fact that the film is so-so, the transfer is rather grainy and the disc has no features of any kind.
Return to the Movie House home page