SEE MINUS

Blink is a thriller of that minigenre of disabled-women-in-peril, to which belong Wait Until Dark and last year's lame Hear No Evil and Richard Fleischer's hair-raising See No Evil. This time the differently abled damsel in distress is Madeleine Stowe as a Chicago woman, blind since childhood, who receives a corneal transplant just in time to get a good look at a murderer's face.

Well, not really a good look. Stowe suffers from a strange phenomenon which the film claims, perhaps accurately, is common to cornea recipients: The faces she sees are distorted at first, but appear to her hours later, with frightening clarity, as hallucinations.

She goes to the police, who lack a better witness--the young woman in the apartment above Stowe's is the victim, and Stowe saw the killer fleeing down the stairs. As the investigation progresses, so does a romance between Stowe and a gruff, good-looking young detective (Aidan Quinn).

Michael Apted, the veteran Brit director (best known for the Seven Up documentary series), gets some elegant jolts out of Stowe's belated visions and gives the production a generally handsome look, presenting his stars to good advantage. Quinn is adequate, and Stowe, an extraordinary beauty--she could be a Botticelli if she weren't so thin--conveys terror without seeming like a mewling, helpless simp. Apted also gets some great Irish folk music into the film, played by the Drovers, a real band for whom Stowe is fictitiously the fiddler.

But while Blink isn't dreadful--it's certainly preferable to the other current psychothriller, Abel Ferrara's Dangerous Game--it still isn't much of a movie, for the same reason that most thrillers of recent years aren't: the script. First of all, when will writers of crime drama stop believing that all policemen, under all circumstances, talk like jocular, adolescent imbeciles?

No doubt most cops do talk this way, at times (most people in most workplaces do). But in Blink, when Stowe--a beautiful woman, a disabled woman and a woman not visibly unlikely to be telling the truth--comes into the precinct to tell her story, the cops treat her with a contempt so open and so inexplicable that it would surely earn them all reprimands. Even cops deserve more credit--for simple pragmatism, if nothing else--than this movie gives them. In this bunch, only the excellent James Remar, as Quinn's quiet partner, escapes looking like a fool. He seems far more fit than Quinn to be the hero and get the girl.

The secret behind the plot, while fairly ingenious in conception, is telegraphed to the audience with a painful lack of subtlety. This is the sort of mystery film that's so sparely dramatized that just about every detail that even momentarily calls attention to itself is clearly intended as a clue. What this killer is up to is so obvious, it adds to the sense that these cops are boobs--blink, and you probably won't miss it.

 
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