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Betrayed Movie Review

berenger gavras winger john

The films of Constantin Costa-Gavras are often complicated, controversial, or disturbing. Betrayed is all three. When we see a man onscreen who appears to be a dutiful son, a kind father, and a considerate lover, we draw certain conclusions about his character. So, unfortunately, does federal agent Debra Winger, who is assigned to investigate the allegedly homicidal white supremacist character portrayed by Tom Berenger. The film's approach requires considerable courage to sustain, and its harsh observations about some aspects of this country put some of its original audiences on the defensive. It may remind others of Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 classic Notorious, in which Ingrid Bergman sleeps with Nazi Claude Rains and reports to her lover, American agent Cary Grant, who punishes her with his obvious resentment and disapproval of the sexual work he requires her to do. Notorious was fairly kinky for its era, but with Betrayed, Costa-Gavras is concerned with far more fundamental issues. The rootless, parentless Winger finds herself falling in love with Berenger and disconnecting from her agency contact John Heard. If she loves her target, he can't be a neo-Nazi, can he? He even hates the Nazi uniform and those who wear it. Her job becomes uglier to her, and more duplicitous. Winger perfectly captures the numbness of a human being who must deny her own feelings in order to survive. Berenger, too, gives his impossible role so much understanding that it's hard to imagine almost any other contemporary actor in the role. Their gritty scenes together are stripped of glamour, which lends their tortured love considerable credibility. Also outstanding are John Mahoney, one of the finest character actors alive today, as a decent man who rationalizes the evil he does, and a beautiful seven-year-old child named Maria Valdez as Berenger's ingratiating daughter. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas succeeds in showing how complicated personal ethics become once you start caring about someone. People outside gnarled relationships might wonder how anyone could give a damn about a homophobic, racist murderer, particularly a sane one. Costa-Gavras suggests some uncomfortable answers; it's well worth checking out Betrayed to discover them.

1988 (R) 112m/C Tom Berenger, Debra Winger, John Mahoney, John Heard, Albert Hall, Jeffrey De-Munn; D: Constantin Costa-Gavras; W: Joe Eszterhas; C: Patrick Blossier. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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