Avenging Angels: 30 Years of Extremities (1986) - Reviewed

The movie version of Extremities turns 30 years old this week. Here's our review of the female led powerhouse film that pits woman against man in a struggle for dominance. Just two years after her starring role in the tv movie, The Burning Bed, Farrah Fawcett would once again strike back against the violent evils of men in Extremities with a role that would define the last half of her career as an actress. 

Movies about females empowering themselves against their would be aggressors were a mainstay in '80s exploitation cinema. Stemming from the exploitive action films of the '70s and the female led horror/vengeance flicks like I Spit On Your Grave, the Reagan era was replete with an influx of cinematic tales of women taking the power back as they heavy handedly mutate and kill bad men. While some movies sexualized this sub-genre, Extremities took a more straightforward dramatic approach that once again turned Farrah Fawcett into a victim of abuse. Extremities is a mostly claustrophobic adaptation that spends the majority of its time in one room while the main characters do more talking than committing vile acts against each other. At the time, this was considered a cutting edge film that pushed the boundaries of realistic storytelling. 

Based on the stage play of the same name, Extremities was touted as a brutal tale of rape, violence, and ultimate justice. After a successful off-Broadway run, it was decided that it would make the transition to film. Sadly for Fawcett and all involved, the film was a box office dud that ultimately didn't play as well for the camera as it did for the stage. Where some stories can make that jump, Extremities feels too confined and strangled by the close quarters of one environment. It's not that it's bad by any means, this version just seems to never fully captivate its audience and never makes the full jump into the film medium. Usually when a play is made into a movie, they find ways to expand and use the larger budget to expand on sets, story and characters. Here, they failed to do so. 

Don't F with the hair.

Starring one of the decade's biggest super models, the movie version never really lives up to the hype attached to it. Other than James Russo's performance as manipulating rapist Joe, the support acting by Alfre Woodard and Diana Scarwid is extremely formulaic and not very convincing. Scarwid is determined to be annoying and melodramatic while Woodard is way too even keeled for the situation at hand. Yet, Fawcett (the weakest actress of the bunch) pushes past the actors surrounding her and delivers one of the best performances of her career. She's mentally drained, emotionally scarred, and at her absolute breaking point; ready to inflict death and castration on the man that attempted to rape her. Fawcett's control of her facial expressions and the turmoil in her eyes is convincing enough to change my mind about the film overall.

You done did jack my eyes up. 
Extremities is never as harsh as it could be. It never goes down the path to utter brutality. And it takes pause any time it seems like it might cross over from thriller to horror. The film has realistic dashes of both and doesn't skip a beat with its messages about friendship, loyalty, and broken trust. If you're looking to take a step back in time and see one of the films that defined the '80s, check this one out. It's not great. And it's not terrible either. However, this is a great example of characters put in a situation that needs steadfast decisions that will ultimately change their lives forever. 

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