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CAT CHASER(director: Abel Ferrara; screenwriters: from a book by Elmore Leonard/Mr. Leonard/James Borrelli; cinematographer: Anthony Richmond; editor: Anthony Redman; music: Chick Corea; cast: Peter Weller (George Moran), Kelly McGillis (Mary DeBoya), Charles Durning (Jiggs Scully), Frederic Forrest (Nolan Tyner), Tomas Milian (Andres DeBoya), Juan Fernandez (Rafi), Phil Leeds (Jerry Shea), Kelly Jo Minter (Loret), Tony Bolano (Corky), Adrianne Sachs (Anita DeBoya), Robert Escobar (Mario Prado), Elmore Leonard (voice-over); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Peter S. Davis/William N. Panzer; Vestron/Artisan; 1989)
“A crime thriller with noir pretensions.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Abel Ferrara (“Ms. 45″/”Bad Lieutenant”) in one of his more accessible films adequately brings out the sleaze, passion and violence in Elmore Leonard’s pulp novel, a crime thriller with noir pretensions. Cat Chaser was never released theatrically. Leonard not only co-scripted it with James Borrelli, but adds a noir-like voice-over (which proves ineffective, as it adds nothing to the story). The film opens showing black-and-white newsreel footage of the brief but bloody 1965 revolution in the Dominican Republic. It was a civil war clash between Constitutionalists (reformist junior military officers and aroused civilian combatants) and Loyalists (conservative army officers), who each wanted control of the government. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered in forces that eventually totaled 20,000, to secure Santo Domingo and to restore order. Johnson wished to stop the Constitutionalists from taking control, fearing they were infiltrated with communists.

George Moran (Peter Weller) was a member of the paratroopers who were involved in the U.S. invasion of the Domincan Republic in 1965, and is now a laid-back owner of a second-rate beachfront hotel in Pompano Beach, Florida (filmed at Miami Beach), called the Cocoanut Palms, which is nevertheless still worth over two million dollars. One of the hotel guests is Nolan Tyner (Frederic Forrest), a drifter and a boozer but though now working for a sleazy gangster is still OK in George’s book because he was also a former paratrooper in the 1965 invasion. Nolan sardonically comments on how there are no cocoanut palms on the property. But George could care less as he is thinking only of his visit back to the Dominican Republic tomorrow, where he wants to find Luci Palmer and thank her for saving his life. She was a 16-year-old Santo Domingo native who when he was cornered in a courtyard, brought him beer and talked Rolling Stone stuff with him instead of letting the guerrillas execute him. He uses an ad in the local newspaper to track her down, as he mentions he was a Cat Chaser–the name of his army platoon.

In the Dominican Republic, George can’t find Luci but hooks up with his ex-girlfriend, the beautiful Mary DeBoya (Kelly McGillis), whose maiden name is Delaney. She married a sadistic ex-general from the Dominican Republic, Andres DeBoya (Tomas Milian), who is now in exile in Florida. Andres ran the secret police and was known for his brutal torture methods in questioning prisoners–stripping his subjects and using garden shears to cut off a woman’s nipples or a man’s testicles. After a night in bed with George, Mary plans to divorce Andres and get the two million bucks hubby promised her in a pre-nuptial marriage contract. But a few problems occur along the way to the divorce: Andres’s spies told him about her night with George and he beats her forcing her to sign away her rights to any money settlement, and then gives her the boot from the mansion; also a ruthless employee Andres uses as an enforcer, Jiggs Scully (Charles Durning), a former cop turned gangster, schemes to take the two million dollars for himself.

One of the film’s great lines comes from Rafi, a low-life hustler, who tells a hooker naned Loret: “You want to be rich, you have to learn how to smile.”

REVIEWED ON 11/22/2004 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”