A serial killer is stalking Los Angeles, killing the models who have appeared in an adult magazine. Because they’re not very good at their jobs, neither Sgt. Bobby Colter (Rick Rossovich) nor Detective J.J. Davis (Paul Sorvino!) have come up with any leads that could lead them to the murderer. Facing a dead end, they come up with a brilliant idea. Maybe a cop could go undercover as an erotic model! Fortunately, Bobby just happens to be dating a surprisingly attractive cop named Holly (Courtney Taylor). You have to love it when a plan comes together.
At first, Holly is hesitant but, realizing that there’s no other possible way to get the killer off the streets (because it’s certainly not like Bobby or J.J. could actually do any police work on their own), she agrees to pose for some pictures. Soon, she’s appearing in the magazine, working as a stripper, and discovering that she enjoys her new uninhibited lifestyle. Meanwhile, the killer has noticed her. The killer, by the way, is Dimitri (Stephen Nichols), who frequently disguises himself as a woman and who is driven to kill by his mother. Dimitri’s identity is revealed early on in the film so this doesn’t count as a spoiler. Cover Me is a mystery but it’s a mystery where everyone figures it all out except for the people who are supposed to be figuring it out.
Cover Me was one of the many direct-to-video films that found a home on late night Cinemax in the 90s. These films were advertised as being “erotic thrillers,” though there was usually little about them that was either erotic or thrilling. Cover Me was produced by Playboy and distributed by Paramount, which means that Hugh Hefner probably used to show up on set, wearing his sea captain’s hat and asking the strippers if they wanted to come back to the mansion and help him look for his Viagra. Because it’s a Playboy film, Cover Me has higher production values than the typical 90s erotic thriller but it’s still interesting that a company best known for publishing an adult magazine would produce a film about a killer targeting nude models. In the 70s, Playboy produced things like Roman Polanski’s adaptation of MacBeth, a cinematic triumph regardless of how one feels about Polanski as a human being. By the time the 90s rolled around, they were producing slightly less classy versions of Stripped to Kill.
Still, Cover Me is better than many of the other erotic thrillers that came out during the direct-to-video era. That doesn’t mean that it was a good movie, of course. There’s a reason why “Skinemax” was go-to punchline during the 1990s. As opposed to many of the other movies of the era and the genre, Cover Me has a talented cast that tries to make the best of the material that they’ve been given. I don’t know how Rick Rossovich went from appearing in The Terminator and Top Gun to starring in something like Cover Me but he delivers his lines with a straight face, which could not have always been easy. Paul Sorvino, Elliott Gould, and Corbin Bernsen are also on hand, all playing their parts like pros. (Between L.A. Law and Psych, Bernsen was a mainstay in these type of films, almost always playing either a pimp, a pornographer, or a strip club owner.) Finally, there’s Courtney Taylor, who is actually pretty good in the role of Holly. Though the role really only calls for her to be sexy, Taylor still plays it with a lot of conviction. Taylor’s performance is natural and likable and she sells even the most clichéd dialogue. Just as when she starred in the fourth Prom Night film, Taylor is always better than her material. Unfortunately, Courtney Taylor appears to have stopped acting around 2000.
Cover Me was shot at the same time as an early CD-Rom game called Blue Heat, where I guess the player would step into Holly’s shoes and try to solve the case. Because the company that developed the game went out of business before the game was published, Blue Heat didn’t come out until two years after Cover Me. I’ve never played the game but, from what I’ve read online, it was a point-and-click game where you could go to various places in Los Angeles and search for clues and interrogate suspects. The game came with multiple endings, depending on the decisions you made. Did anyone ever play this game? Let me know in the comments!
As for Cover Me, it’s not great but it’s also not terrible, which is high praise when it come to late night CInemax.