Color, 1983, 100 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Tony Garnett
Starring Karen Young, Clayton Day, Suzie Humphreys
Fun City Editions (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Network (DVD) (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Back in the latter half of the '80s, Deep in the Heartyou seemingly couldn't walk into a video store anywhere in the U.S. without Deep in the Heartseeing the distinctive bright red EMI VHS box for Deep in the Heart sitting in the drama section. Nobody ever seemed to actually rent it, but this was the kind of cover that stuck in your memory even if the artwork and copy didn't really give much indication of what the film was about. At least superficially, this would seem to be a Texas-set variation on the rape-revenge film that had flourished on the exploitation circuit with titles like Ms. 45, I Spit on Your Grave, Lipstick, and They Call Her One Eye. What you get is something a bit different though, with British filmmaker Tony Garnett (who most famously co-wrote Kes) taking a curious look at the intersection of America's flawed justice system (especially when it comes to what we now call date rape) and seemingly insatiable hunger for firearms.

Recently relocated from Boston, young Texas schoolteacher Kathleen (The Sopranos' Young) is introduced by a colleague to lawyer and gun aficionado Larry (Day), who pressures her to go out on a date. Thanks to some maneuvering he gets her alone and, after she explains that she Deep in the Hearthas no interest in getting into a relationship, he rapes her at gunpoint. When she tries to report the crime, Kathleen finds the procedure involved woefully inadequate and, unable to press Deep in the Heartcharges, decides to get a gun and put in some time at the nearest firing range. However, what she has in mind for revenge isn't exactly what you'd expect.

Almost entirely a two-person show for Young and Day, Deep in the Heart (a.k.a. Handgun) isn't as exploitative as the material might indicate but does pack an unsettling punch dealing with a slew of topical material that still remains extremely relevant and unresolved. There's even a recurring critique of Hollywood machismo and gun worship with names like John Wayne and Alan Ladd evoked as the American ideal, and telling the entire story through Kathleen's eyes is a smart tactic that helps tackle the issues at hand without feeling forced or trite. It would make a really great double feature with 1985's Smooth Talk as well.

Completely forgotten in the U.S. after its Deep in the HeartVHS run and a fleeting 2002 DVD from Anchor Bay, Deep in the Heart turned up on DVD from the now defunct Network in the U.K. in 2013 but has otherwise skipped several generations of movie watchers. In 2024, Fun City Editions finally brought it to a wider audience with a Blu-ray special edition featuring a solid, colorful, Deep in the Heartand naturally grainy HD presentation courtesy of StudioCanal, and the DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is also excellent with optional English SDH subtitles included. Erica Shultz and Chris O’Neill provide a very worthwhile new audio commentary studying the timing of the film's production (while Reagan was in office, driving home the film's point about Hollywood actors), the locations, related films on the same topics, and the backgrounds of the director and actors. A brief archival interview with the late Garnett (2m9s) covers his impressions of gun culture starting with his first visit to the U.S. in 1968; also included are an image gallery (3m58s) and a newly created trailer. The set comes with an insert featuring a new essay by Alexander Heller-Nicholas about the conventions of rape-revenge cinema.

Reviewed on June 1, 2024