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Film / Exception to the Rule

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Exception to the Rule is a Canadian Direct to Video Thriller movie directed by David Winning and released in 1997. It was produced/distributed by Artisan Entertainment (later acquired by Lionsgate) and Shavick Entertainment.

Tim Bayer (Eric McCormack) is a diamond trader unhappily married to Angela (Sean Young), who also happens to be the daughter of his boss Larry Kellerman (William Devane). Despite seeking advice from his co-worker Ron and psychiatrist Dr. Beeson, Tim still feels his marital relationship is getting worse.

When Tim meets the beautiful Carla Rainer (Kim Cattrall) it quickly leads to a passionate one night stand. Unfortunately for Tim, his "chance encounter" was not an accident. Carla turns out to be a scheming criminal intent on stealing a collection of diamonds from Larry's firm. And she will stop at nothing - including blackmail and murder - to achieve her goal.


Screenshots and a spoiler-heavy trailer can be viewed on the film's IMDB page.

Exception to the Rule contains examples of:

  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: A literal example, used by Burt in response to Carla when she claims Tim is a willing participant in her scheme.
    Carla: We're lovers, and the point of this is to clean out the father-in-law Larry.
    Burt: Yeah, right. And I'm the Queen of fucking Sheba.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Tim and Angela's relationship is anything but happy.
  • Big Bad: Carla Rainer is out to get a collection of diamonds from Diamond trader Tim Bayer's firm and is using him to do so.
  • Blackmail: Carla videotapes a steamy encounter with Tim, and later uses it to blackmail him into doing her dirty work.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Carla's preferred method of execution.
  • Caught on Tape:
    • Carla uses video footage of Tim's affair to coerce him. Since this is a 1990s movie, an actual VHS tape is used.
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    • A microcassette example late in the film: Tim secretly records a conversation between himself and Carla using a Hidden Wire to provide evidence to the police.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several examples.
    • During a conversation with Carla, Angela mentions her fear of snakes. Guess what Carla leaves as a nasty surprise for Angela later on.
    • During another conversation in a women's restroom, Carla tells Angela about her half-heart tattoo on her leg, and mentions her lover has the other half. Later on Angela notices an identical tattoo on Ron's chest, tipping her off he's in cahoots with Carla.
    • Angela's sculpture Blind Justice - a grotesque metal statue of a woman - appears in several scenes, with more than one shot focusing on a raised vertical arm. At the climax, Carla falls onto the statue and is impaled on the sharp hand.
    • Subverted with Tim's dog, which repeatedly appears in scenes leading the viewer to think it will later play an important role. This never happens.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: The climax has the sadistic Carla searching for Angela in a darkened workshop. This comes with the obligatory taunts.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Carla has several plans to steal the diamonds
    • She murders an acquaintance in order to steal them in Johannesburg, but the local dealer has already passed them onto an employee of Larry's firm.
    • It's possible she attempts to steal them from Ferguson also, but Tim didn't bring the stones to the meeting.
    • Before she even meets Tim, Carla has already involved several men in her scheme - her blackmail of Tim was in effect a backup plan.
    • Or perhaps Carla just likes screwing the men in her life. She practically admits as much.
  • Disney Villain Death: Diamond broker Ferguson falls to his death in San Francisco, pushed from a balcony by Carla (though we don't actually see her perform the deed).
  • Evil All Along: Both Dr. Beeson and Ron turn out to be in league with Carla. Perhaps Tim should have chosen better friends.
  • Femme Fatale: Carla is a particularly deadly one.
    • Her plot to blackmail Tim - and what follows - is the central focus of the story.
    • Ferguson - the San Francisco diamond broker - mentions he's expecting a "special kind of room service" moments before Carla bumps him off. This implies the two know each other, though it's possible Ferguson was referring to a third party.
    • Carla was one of Dr. Beeson's patients, and uses this relationship to blackmail him.
    • Carla and Ron are secret lovers.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Happens during the opening sequence, when the screen fades to black just before Carla shoots a diamond dealer in the head. This also happens when she murders her accomplice Ron, though some blood spatter is shown.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Carla spends much of the movie wearing a leather jacket and gloves.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Carla uses a silenced pistol to off several victims. And the silencer sound pre-empts a change of shot more than once.
  • I Have Your Wife: When Carla's blackmail scheme doesn't work on Tim, she breaks into his house and holds Angela at gunpoint in exchange for the diamonds.
  • Improvised Weapon: Happens several times during the climax.
    • Angela grabs a golf club to knock a pistol from Carla's hand.
    • Angela grabs a blowtorch during a struggle. And after the flame goes out, she uses it as a club to knock Carla over a ledge.
  • Inertial Impalement: At the climax, Carla falls onto a metal statue with a sharp upward-pointing hand.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: Burt Ramsey. In addition to being a nightclub owner and Loan Shark, he also works as a Private Detective.
  • MacGuffin: The collection of diamonds that Carla wants to steal from Tom and Larry.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In an early scene Carla is seen naked (from the rear and side), though the actress playing her is a body double.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Late in the movie Carla shows up at Angela's house. The terrified wife manages to escape only to run into Ron.
    Angela: There's a woman in the house.
    Ron: Is she single?
  • Not Quite Dead: An interesting subversion / example of misdirection when Angela checks Carla's body. The shot implies the person will turn out to still be alive, but nothing happens except for a brief finger twitch.
  • Oh, Crap!: The diamond dealer in Johannesburg assumes Carla has shown up at his office for a dinner appointment. Until she pulls out a silenced pistol, and he makes a futile run for the exit.
  • Plot Armor: At one point Carla has a clear shot at the pregnant Angela yet somehow misses - despite being portrayed as an expert markswoman prior to that. Lampshaded by her accomplice.
    Ron: You're a lousy shot.
  • Poison Is Evil: Carla injects two victims with paralysing sea snake venom. The first time, we see only a sinister black gloved hand holding a syringe. The second time, we see Carla perform the injection and her sadistic reaction.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted with Detective Garcia, who quickly sees through Tim's lies and Carla's (admittedly rather poor) attempt to make a death look like an accident.
  • Pregnant Badass: Despite bearing a child and being taunted about it, Angela puts up a real fight against the murderous Carla.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Carla on several occasions.
    • During her late night meeting with Burt she smiles throughout the conversation - shortly before she injects him with snake venom.
    • She smiles evilly while listening in to a telephone conversation between a terrified Angela and her husband.
    • When Angela grabs a lit blowtorch to defend herself, Carla seems visibly worried. Then the flame goes out, and Carla smirks in triumph. Which gives Angela the opportunity she needs to deliver the killer blow.
  • Sadist: Carla definitely qualifies as one.
    • She has two methods of paralysing her victims:
      • A gunshot to the shoulder, then execution by headshot. This happens to an unnamed Johannesburg diamond dealer in the opening scene and Ron. She later attempts to kill Tim by the same method.
      • Injection with sea snake venom. This is the fate of diamond broker Ferguson and Burt Ramsey.
    • After she injects Burt with venom, she waves goodbye, douses him in alcohol, and licks the bottle.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Carla really has a thing for serpents. Besides injecting victims with sea snake venom and wearing a glove bearing a shiny snake-like motif, she leaves a live snake as a 'present' for Angela.
  • These Gloves Are Made for Killin': Carla Rainer has a fondness for wearing black leather gloves as well as a leather jacket whenever she's going to murder someone.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Like most direct-to-video movies, most of the action sequences (and the fates of many characters) feature in the trailer.
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Ron is heavily in debt to Burt, who sends thugs around to his office to remind him of this.
  • Too Dumb to Live: For such a streetwise man, Burt should have known better than to meet a leather-clad gloved woman at the edge of a cliff. Particularly since she's wearing a sinister smile and has her hands behind her back.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Angela goes from being a whimpering wife to a real fighter at the climax. Tim also qualifies to an extent - an ordinary guy not afraid to take risks to save her.
  • Villain Over for Dinner: After Carla blackmails Tim, he attends a business meeting between him, Angela, Larry and a businesswoman name Suzanne from Saudi Arabia. This woman turns out to be Carla using an alias, which leads to a somewhat awkward conversation (as Tim doesn't want to reveal he knows Carla).
  • Wham Shot: After a late-night rendezvous Tim follows Carla to a motel, where she receives a visit from her co-conspirator Dr. Beeson.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • When Dr. Beeson has a change of heart and decides to contact Tim, he's drowned in a bathtub by a masked assailant later revealed to be Ron.
    • After Ron fails to lure Angela out of hiding, Carla decides she no longer needs his help, shoots him in the shoulder, and then finishes him off with a headshot after first delivering a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
      Carla: You're too much of a fuck up. I'll take it from here.