Lacking the snap and sharpness that might have made it a firstrate thriller, Black Widow instead plays as a moderately interesting tale of one woman’s obsession for another’s glamorous and criminal lifestyle.
Theresa Russell portrays an icy-hard, beautiful woman who, it quickly becomes clear, makes an exceptionally handsome living by marrying wealthy men, murdering them, then collecting the settlements from the wills.
Pattern would go unnoticed were it not for conscientious, disheveled Justice Dept agent Debra Winger, who thinks she smells a rat and begs permission to pursue the case.
Winger first takes off after her prey for purely professional reasons, but the most intriguing aspect of screenplay is the barely submerged sexual jealousy the overworked government employee feels for the sexy, utterly confident manipulator of sex and lives.
Winger and Russell are both talented and watchable young actresses, so the picture has a lot going for it thanks to their casting alone. At the same time, both play very tense, brittle women rather near the breaking point, so there is a nervousness and restraint in both performances that harnesses them slightly.