Certain Fury is an action meets exploitation film that Tatum O’Neal and Irene Cara did in the 80’s. O’Neal is Scarlet, an accused murderer who lets us know her name was Barbara but that she’s completely committed to her name change by dying her hair red. When a shootout causes court to close early, Scarlet and Tracy (Cara) make a run for it. It’s not in their best interests, but that’s what they do. The police interpret their actions as guilty so, of all the women who high-tailed it out of the courtroom that day, their search becomes centered around finding them.
Tracy wants to turn herself in. Her punishment was set to be minimal (she stole a car) and continuing to hitch her future on a stranger makes no sense.
None of the men in this movie know what they’re supposed to be. Peter Fonda and his knife appear in a powder blue sweater. He’s a criminal. There’s a strange subplot involving Tracy’s physician dad (Moses Gunn), where he gets too much access to crime scenes and lets a cop (George Murdock) badmouth his daughter. A lot of screentime is devoted to their conversations and nothing comes of them.
Then there’s a guy named Sniffer, real prize. He’s played by Nicholas Campbell, and if you need a reason to watch this movie it’s to figure out who Scarlet and Sniffer are to each other, because they’re clearly conflicted. Their exchange takes so many turns, from full-on make-out, to running away together, to Sniffer holding a knife to Scarlet’s throat, that it may leave you questioning everything you thought you knew.
Kino’s new DVD release includes a commentary track from film historians, Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer. As a female-led action movie it wouldn’t have hurt to involve a female critic, as well, but getting to hear anybody explain this film is a gift, especially since Thompson and Greer are fans who know how seriously to take Certain Fury (not very) and steer their discussion from a place of love.
One thing that was interesting to realize was the point in which this film fell in O’Neal’s career. If you’ve ever watched the show Rescue Me, where she played Denis Leary’s sister, Maggie, she was a monster on that show and a blast to watch. Knowing that performance, it made sense she’d play the tougher of the two girls in Certain Fury, but that’s not how fans knew her in the 80’s. Certain Fury was a transition film for O’Neal, away from the nicer roles she’d been cast in as a child actress.
Besides asking viewers to suspend their disbelief, Certain Fury has inconsistencies (a man causes an explosion lighting a cigarette that’s doesn’t get him killed or singed) and there’s an anxiousness on the film’s part to illicit shock (Scarlet suddenly says the n-word, or comes out as illiterate). For all that headache, Certain Fury is still a movie that co-stars O’Neal and Cara and is ready for a late night rotation.
Certain Fury is available here.