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“Solid acting helps overcome questionable plot elements; Grier still has the power.”

The first ten minutes of this seem intent on running out every stereotype possible: Pam Grier as a hot-headed black cop, juggling her job with life as a single mother, taking on prejudiced neighbours, etc, etc. Even her name – Wilder – sounds like something generated by a cliche machine. But as the film goes on, it twists away from the murder-mystery it starts as, eventually corkscrewing off into conspiracy theory, the black market in radioactive materials, illicit medical experiments and corrupt big business.

Adding to the fun, the chief murder suspect is Dr Charney, played by genre legend Rutger Hauer, and the pair have a weird chemistry that works, in spite of everything you might think. There are certainly aspects of the storyline which are questionable. A DNA test which would have cleared Charney is carried out, then not mentioned again, while the most eyebrow-raising sequence has Wilder and Charney break into the morgue, carry out an unofficial autopsy, get attacked, then depart, taking a pair of corpses with them. I guess security on evidence for murder cases is a little lax in Chicago.

I’m a mark for paranoid thrillers, and if you’re not, this probably isn’t really worth your time. Even I found the feminist subtext a bit hard to swallow, and suspect that in the real world, Wilder’s investigative technique would have led to her ass being fired from the police department early in Act One. But Grier is in fine form, even butt-kicking her partner when necessary to the plot, and Hauer is, as always, worth watching. Together, they’re the oddest couple of investigators I’ve seen in a while, and that’s no bad thing.

Dir: Rodney Gibbons
Star: Pam Grier, Rutger Hauer, Romano Orzari, Eugene Clark

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