Chicago Joe and the Showgirl

Watch Chicago Joe and the Showgirl

"Attraction drew them together. Compulsion drew them to murder."
  • R
  • 1990
  • 1 hr 43 min
  • 5.0  (793)

Chicago Joe and the Showgirl is a British crime drama film that takes its inspiration from real events that occurred during World War II. Released in 1990, this movie explores the darker intersections of fantasy, war, and crime, bringing to life a notorious chapter of history with a blend of romance and violence. Directed by Bernard Rose and written by David Yallop, the narrative unfolds in 1944 wartime London, a city under the shadow of constant threat from German V-1 flying bombs but still pulsating with life and energy. It's within this turbulent backdrop that the movie's protagonists fall into a dangerous liaison that spirals into a criminal rampage.

In the film, Emily Lloyd stars as the ambitious and fanciful English showgirl, Betty Jones, who is obsessed with Hollywood glamor and the allure of American gangsters. Kiefer Sutherland takes the role of Karl Hulten, an American GI with delusions of grandeur, claiming to be a Chicago gangster named "Chicago Joe". His tall tales and Betty's fascination with the underworld collide as they embark on a fantasy-driven escapade.

Karl, though initially more of a dreamer than a gangster, finds in Betty a kindred spirit who eggs him on to embody "Chicago Joe" more and more. Mesmerized by her desire for thrills and her belief in his fabricated persona, Karl begins to embrace the role he's created. Together, they're ensnared in a whirlwind of make-believe that blurs the line between illusion and reality, gradually escalating from petty crimes to more serious offenses.

The palpable chemistry between Betty and Karl serves as the driving force of the narrative. It's her craving for excitement and his eagerness to impress that fuels their journey into London's criminal underworld. Betty's fascination with movie stars like James Cagney and racy crime dramas feeds her dangerous fantasies. She is captivated by the romanticized portrayal of gangsters, their shootouts, and the notoriety attached to their lifestyle. On the other hand, Karl, stationed far from the battlefields of Europe and feeling the burden of his monotonous military duties, finds an escape in Betty's adoration and the chance to reinvent himself as the tough mobster he pretends to be.

John Lahr plays the supporting role of an observer who can foresee the perils in the path Betty and Karl are heading down but is ineffective at swaying their trajectory. As an embodiment of the voice of reason, his character highlights the tragedy of young people losing themselves in the fog of war and fictitious tales of power and identity.

Bernard Rose's direction ensures that the movie does not just portray the characters' descent into criminality, but also delves into the deeper psychological underpinnings. The war setting serves as a perfect metaphor for the internal battles waged within Karl and Betty, illustrating how external chaos can exacerbate personal turmoil and vice versa.

The film is distinctive for its period atmosphere, capturing 1940s London with an attention to detail that brings authenticity to the screen. The costuming, set design, and evocative soundtrack place viewers in the moment, enveloped by the sights and sounds of an era marked by both austerity and resilience.

Chicago Joe and the Showgirl was met with mixed reactions upon its release. It has since been a topic of interest for those fascinated by wartime psychology and the real-life case that inspired the story. The film satiates the appetite for mid-century nostalgia while also providing a cautionary tale about the dangers of living too deeply within a fantasy.

The performances of Lloyd and Sutherland reveal the complexity of characters who are not inherently malevolent but rather caught in the momentum of their delusions. The duality of their innocence and culpability is a major theme of the film, as it poses difficult questions about accountability and the influence of cultural myths upon the psyche.

The cinematography in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl is artful, using light and shadow to underscore the characters' dualistic natures and the dimming line between their dream world and the grim reality they are creating. As the crimes committed by the duo become increasingly severe, the film builds tension that ropes viewers into the inevitability of their fate.

Ultimately, Chicago Joe and the Showgirl is a gripping portrayal of two individuals lost in their fantasy world, demonstrating how easily truth can be obscured by dreams, especially during times of conflict. It serves as a period piece, a crime story, and a psychological study, weaving together elements that challenge viewers to consider the powerful impact of war on individual identities and moral choices.

Chicago Joe and the Showgirl
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 43 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.0  (793)