It's a tale that is old as time. Toss in two people from different backgrounds, have the cops chase them and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis set the standard in The Defiant Ones in 1958, then Pam Grier and Margaret Markov put a ladies touch on the theme in 1973 with the classic girls on the run film White Mama, Black Mama. But my favorite in the "I don't care if our skin color is different, JUST RUN!" genre has got to be 1985's classic Certain Fury.
Stephen Gyllenhaal, think Jake but not as sexy and older, directed a handful of films and did mostly TV work, but Certain Fury is clearly his best work. With it's sweeping musical cues and enormous set pieces, Gyllenhaal went all out for this simple tale of two sassy gals on the run. Teaming two Oscar winning actors does not always mean movie magic, unless you are a huge fan of Tatum O' Neal and Irene Cara, which I am. Score one for me! Tatum is a bad girl with a rap sheet as long as her dads. Irene is the good girl who somehow was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They all say that! Both join forces when they are waiting for their sentences in a courtroom and some whore got ape shit and grabs the security guard's gun and starts killing everyone! The girls escape, only to find that the gun woman is running with them! BEAT IT BITCH!! She won't let go! The cops massacre her in the street and Tats and Irene plunge into the labyrinth of sewer tunnels beneath the city. When any character goes into the sewer system, it always means two things are going to happen. There will be tons of rats and the water (usually clean) will erupt and turn the entire movie into a non-stop water slide! One of my favorite things to happen in a movie! Certain Fury does not disappoint.
Soaking wet and another dead cop on their hands (not their fault, but everyone will think it is), Tats has a brilliant idea to hide in the apartment of her drug dealer ex-boyfriend, but not before screaming racist terms at Irene and disclosing that she is illiterate. It kinda reminds me of the end of White Fang when Ethan Hawke yells at White Fang to leave him alone, but White Fang won't go. The girls changes clothes and Irene decides that it is a good idea to take a shower. After all she was just in jail and swimming around in the sewer. Irene, always comfortable with uncomfortable nudity, shows everything and almost gets raped by Tats ex. She stabs him with broken glass and beats it. Only to find herself along side of Tats again! Those girls!
They steal some drugs and go to a crack house, where Irene decides it is a good idea to take a nap and ends up getting shot full of heroin and almost raped again! The crack house, which looks like a borrowed set from The Poseidon Adventure, is fucking huge! Full of ladders and little hiding places, you can get lost for hours. Like a bad night at BP. Or a good night if you ask the right person. The place burns to the ground and everyone thinks the girls are dead and they celebrate by eating doughnuts and trying to figure out what to do next. Irene suggest going up to the mountains and living in a cabin and growing a garden. Tats has other plans.
The movie ends on a railway bridge, with the cops closing in and the girls finding themselves between the truth and a hard place. Will anyone believe them? Will Tats learn to read? Will Irene sing the end credits song? All the questions will be answered in due time.
Certain Fury, clocking in at about 80 minutes, packs a lot of high octane thrills into its small time frame. The girls are full of gusto and Tats seems super high on something, which just adds to the joy of the film. They aren't great in the movie and they aren't really just okay in it, but it is fun to watch them run and jump off the roof and slide down pipes on the side of a building.
It is one of my favorite movies to watch whenever you need to fill that Tatum O' Neal void that haunts us all.
Irene went on to do nothing else of importance and Tats went on to do tons of drugs. In her book, A Paper Life, she relegates Certain Fury to a couple of sentences of nonsense. I wanted the juicy details, but I don't think she remembers them to well.