Tatum O’Neal is completely engaging as Lawrencia ”Bambi” Bembenek, the former Milwaukee police officer and model who, in a widely publicized case, was accused of shooting her husband’s first wife in 1981. Unfortunately, the four-hour film built around O’Neal’s performance is way too long, and as a drama, way too simplistic.
According to the script by writer-director Sandor Stern (Deception: A Mother’s Secret), Bembenek was probably set up by her husband, Fred Schultz (Knots Landing’s Bruce Greenwood), and much of Woman on the Run is a tedious trudge through the facts that might clear her name. A good actor, Saul Rubinek, is wasted in the role of an investigative reporter who digs up evidence to help Bembenek’s case. Rubinek is just there to toss out lots of information that’s either confusing or obvious. The case is pretty exciting — Bembenek pulled off a daring but only briefly successful prison escape in 1990 — but Stern renders even this dull. The way the movie presents her case, Bembenek seems so clearly innocent, even her plea bargain to a reduced charge of second-degree murder seems absurdly harsh. Woman on the Run is exasperating, except for O’Neal’s acting, which is carefully shaded and always convincing. C+