Debra Winger plays a federal investigator on the trail of a ‘black widow,’ a woman (Theresa Russell) who marries and murders one rich man after another, collecting inheritances as she goes. It’s great to see Debra Winger in anything, even if she’s under-utilized. Under-utilization is actually a recurring theme in the making of Black Widow. Russell’s mysterious character is also under-written. Supporting players the likes of Dennis Hopper, Nicol Williamson, and Diane Ladd are also relegated to unsophisticated bit parts with little screen time.
Ronald Bass’s screenplay skips over anything remotely visceral or salacious to remain curiously dry and straight-forward, and director Bob Rafelson seems equally determined not to let this film fall into any genre conventions, good or bad. The film almost becomes interesting when Winger befriends Russell to learn more about her, but even the drama of two ‘frenemies’ is kept to a low boil. Despite its potential, Black Widow never really takes off. With James Hong, Lois Smith, and Sami Frey.