Deep in the Heart [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Fun City Editions
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (4th June 2024).
The Film

Boston transplant Kathleen Sullivan (Birdy's Karen Young) has just started teaching at a Dallas, Texas high school. She assures her parents back East that not only has she started attending Mass again after being lax in college but she has also befriended another teacher Nancy (Suzie Humphreys) who has introduced her to handsome young attorney Larry Keeler (The Day After's Clayton Day), a colleague of her husband Chuck (The Dukes of Hazzard's Ben Jones). Although Larry seems affable enough, Kathleen is not looking for anything serious and she starts to find concerning his interest in guns which seems to go beyond a mere hobbyist. When Larry rapes her at gunpoint, Kathleen becomes socially-withdrawn as the ordeal of dealing with unhelpful doctors and the police wear on her. Coming to the realization that the law and the very culture surrounding her both Western machismo and her own Catholic faith are victimizing her, Kathleen decides to fight fire with fire, joining Larry's gun club and initiating a cat-and-mouse game that ends with her attacker in the cross hairs.

A British production shot in Dallas, Texas by frequent Ken Loach producer Tony Garnett inspired by his reaction to American gun culture, Handgun the alternate title Deep in the Heart seemingly a reference to the Moe Bandy song but taking on a more sinister significance is also quite atypical of the sub-genre of rape-revenge films at that point typified by the "day of the woman" films like Hannie Caulder, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, and I Spit on Your Grave but reaches back further to Westerns with heroes acting on behalf of a spouse or relative as well as the vengeful parents of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring and its Grindhouse remamek Last House on the Left. Katheen's gun-obsessed attacker is not a Taxi Driver-esque psycho who finally flips out although he does have a similar scene of posturing before a mirror which is more narcissistic than disassociative or the dark alley/burglar ciphers of Ms .45 but a "charming" young buck whose attitude reeks of entitlement. He looks like a yuppie in love with the sound of his own voice he may actually expect Kathleen and the girls in Kathleen's class to be interested in his lecture but the latter leer at him as much as he does Kathleen which makes him seem even more a dinosaur (or "beached male" as Kathleen describes her father) than the old-timers in his gun club with his romanticized portrait of conquering the West; a view that disregards the presence of those who were already there that Kathleen almost defiantly states "makes us all illegal aliens Texas was not settled. It was fought over and finally conquered in a race war" (an apt remark since both Larry and a "survivalist" both parrot the Reagan-era "welfare queen" ideas of threat from minorities if such government programs dry up). The rape scene is shocking not for any graphic violence but for the way Larry forces her to submit while holding a gun and telling her to calm down because he is not pointing it at her. At the same time, he implies that she could get hurt but that the courts would believe she was at fault:
"There were one-hundred and ninety-eight accidental handgun deaths in Dallas last year. Not one of them was successfully prosecuted. They were all caused by people who weren't familiar with handguns and that's you. None of them were caused by somebody familiar with handguns, and that's me."

Peak mansplaining occurs in the aftermath when he attributes her unwillingness to being "repressed sexually" and suggests she get professional help for her "slightly maladjusted" psyche; indeed, his desire for "some trigger" to release her sexuality sets up the association of sexuality and violence that the film refreshingly shows us is only one-sided. The film eschews the rape-revenge tropes of public accusation, trial, denial, and public shaming of the victim in favor of the more realistic "lecture" to the victim about how hard it is to prove "date rape" when the medical examination only proves she had sex, there is no evidence of physical coercion, and her attacker is a respetactable good old boy while she is a stranger from the uptight East Coast. If even her priest (Terminal Force's Michael O'Shea) advises her to forgive her attacker prioritizing Larry's supposed spiritual torment and supposed eventual divine punishment over her own suffering it is no surprise that she does not confide in her loving parents; while her best friend Nancy can only remark on her appearance and inadvertently imply that her expectations about her relationship with Larry are the issue. Once Kathleen cuts her hair and dresses like a school marm to de-emphasize her femininity, her looks are mocked by her coworkers and her students and it is in this respect that she first stands up for herself but the members of Larry's gun club regard her as a "pretty little lady" but they seem to respect her for her growing ability, and her presence overshadows that of Larry as she initiates her own brand of subtle but effective intimidation. The climactic standoff between Kathleen and Larry is not a Death Wish-esque (or maybe Savage Streets) cathartic release where the once-pacifist Kathleen turns eternal vigilante. She simply demonstrates in a manner that utterly annihilates Larry's "manhood" that she will fight back if backed into a corner, and she will do it her way; and she refuses to give herself fully over to violence as the at first inappropriate-seeming reggae-infused end credits song includes the lyrics "Lay down your arms, and I will open mine."


Shot in 1981 but not released until 1983 in the United Kingdom by EMI and 1984 in the United States by Warner Bros. as "Deep in the Heart" who reportedly delayed and underplayed the release since they were distributing the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" vehicle Sudden Impact which was a more conventional rape-revenge film Handgun was released on VHS by EMI under the alternate title while the original title was restored to the Anchor Bay U.S. DVD in 2002 and in the U.K. in 2013 from Network. Fun City Editions' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a new 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative. The film on tape and DVD had a rather grainy, pseudo-documentary feel that is retained here but with a nice professional sheen and some saturated colors that pop against the grays and browns of the sunburned and largely urbanized Dallas locations (cinematographer Charles Stewart was a regular Garnett and Loach collaborator). Night scenes sport deep blacks and deliberate use of flaring light sources "slicing" through the frame.


The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track in which the dialogue is always clear while revealing differences in recording conditions, with conventional dramatic scenes mic'd up and cleanly mixed while scenes like the musical rehearsal, gun club sequences, and Kathleen's classroom scenes have a "documentary" feel even though room tone is used to cover up the sound edits. The track also draws attention to the sparse scoring by TV composer Mike Post (Law & Order) as well as a couple Garnett-penned songs with lyrics that seem frothy at first but take on significance. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.


Extras start off with an audio commentary by film historians Erica Shultz and Chris O'Neill. O'Neill discusses Garnett's career, the historical significance of many of the Texas locations and the film's satirical outsider view of America along with another EMI British production lensed in America Honky Tonk Freeway by John Schlesinger as well as Garnett's use of professional actors and non-actors while Shultz discusses the different types of rape-revenge films including those with Western tropes and an analysis of the characters, noting how Larry becomes progressively less likable with each meeting, as well as referencing remarks from actor Day who like his character was a Texan with an Ivy League education who described how realistic a Texas personality type Larry was.

Ported from the British DVD is an all-too-brief interview with producer/writer/director Tony Garnett (2:09) who stick around just long enough to recall his reaction to American gun culture while on an earlier visit to the United States.

The disc also includes an image gallery (3:58) and the film's theatrical trailer (2:29).


The disc comes with a booklet featuring a new essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas who also discusses the intersection of Westerns and rape-revenge tales, the significance of translating these ideas to a modern day Texas setting, and the ways the film deconstructs the genre. The booklet is illustrated with the American artwork that makes the film look like a conventional rape-revenge film.

The first pressing includes and a limited edition slipcover with newly-commissioned front and back artwork by Tom Ralston.


Deep in the Heart is at once an outsider's satire of American gun culture as it is a deconstruction of the rape-revenge film.


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