Betrayed Blu-Ray Review
After the murder of a radio host, the FBI sends agent Catherine Weaver (Debra Winger) to infiltrate a farming community that is suspected of harboring white supremacists. There she meets and falls for the clean-living Gary Simmons. She struggles with her mixed loyalties, but eventually must betray one to protect the other.
John Heard, who died last month at age 71, was a versatile American actor with a wide range of film and television roles. He started his career in community theatre groups before appearing on stage and off-Broadway. He established himself on screen in such dramas as Between the Lines, Chilly Scenes of Winter, and Heart Beat (1980), where he played Jack Kerouac opposite Nick Nolte’s Neal Cassady. He also appeared as a corrupt detective on The Sopranos and as Geraldine Page’s son in The Trip to Bountiful.
Heard’s most famous role was that of Kevin McCallister’s father in the 1990 hit Home Alone and its sequel, Home Alone 2. He portrayed the part with a combination of concerned dramatic acting and classical comedic tropes. He was also an accomplished singer and painter. The coroner’s office ruled that Heard died of a heart attack in his Palo Alto hotel room. A toxicology report revealed that he had a pharmacy’s worth of drugs in his system, including Xanax and opioids.
The BFI’s Blu-ray of Betrayed is a very good looking film. Clarity is very good, though shadow definition can occasionally be heavy and unnaturally bulky in some scenes.
Despite a fine performance by Debra Winger, the movie never fully lives up to its potential. The problem lies with the script, which is written by Joe Eszterhas, a screenwriter who at this point was arguably Hollywood’s most well paid writer.
He had a fine idea here, to shine a spotlight on violent racism that quietly undermines a nation. However, he chose to spice up the thriller plot with an unconvincing romance and sensationalist depiction of rural extremism. In doing so, he trivializes the subject at hand. This is a tragedy, especially given the power of Debra Winger and Tom Berenger. It’s also a missed opportunity. They could have made this into a truly compelling and powerful drama. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. *Richard Libertini was based on the real-life Jewish talk back radio shock jock Sam Kraus, who was assassinated in 1984.
Tom Berenger came to prominence with his brooding roles in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill and his Oscar nominated performance as sociopath Sergeant Barnes in Platoon. After establishing himself as a leading man, he began producing and writing films. He also starred in the highly acclaimed mini-series Rough Riders as Teddy Roosevelt.
The murder of a radio personality in Chicago points the FBI to a group of white supremists in Iowa. Inexperienced agent Catherine Weaver (Debra Winger) infiltrates the community to root out the suspect. Although she is supposed to keep her distance, she soon falls for the clean-living farmer (Tom Berenger) who she despises but still loves.
While the film is not a jumpy thriller, it has a moral center and an engaging story. It is also well acted and directed by Joe Eszterhas, who crafted the screenplay with Debra Winger in mind. Winger is especially effective in her dual role as a woman who must remain objective while she pursues her investigation and grows close to her suspect.
She began her career in television commercials and landed the role of Drusilla, Wonder Woman’s little sister on the TV series. After this, she appeared in several films, including An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment.
Winger was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in An Officer and a Gentleman, but lost to Katharine Hepburn in Terms of Endearment. She was the most sought-after actress at the time but turned down a number of quality projects. She also starred in Legal Eagles, Made in Heaven, Everybody Wins and The Sheltering Sky.
Winger was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to California at a young age. She worked in an amusement park and was part of a life-changing accident when she was 18. Thrown off a truck while dressed as a troll, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and went blind. This changed her perspective and she decided to pursue acting. It took her a while to get established, but she became one of the biggest female stars of the 1980s.