Wild Things (18)

Directed by John McNaughton
Starring Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Therese Russell, Bill Murray

Plot twists and unexpected events in movies have always been popular. The Usual Suspects twisted us around in the dying seconds, The Crying Game- still the best shock twist- had me falling off my chair, and numerous horror films have that surprise ending where the dead killer isn't really dead. This film tries to combine the plot twists with a film noir atmosphere. Gratuitous sexy scenes and male and female nudity are obviously also supposed to be selling points.
The film begins straight forwardly enough with teacher Sam Lombardo(Matt Dillon being pursued by little rich girl Kelly (Denise Richards from Starship Troopers). After an unseen encounter, Sam is accused by Kelly of rape, and before you can say unsubstanciated rumour, he is out of work, shunned by all and sundry and hiring deadbeat lawyer Bill Murray to defend him. Cops Bacon and his partner(Daphne Rubin-Vega) investigate further and find another apparent victim- bad girl Suzie(Campbell). The trial has an unexpected outcome, and from there, twist after twist arrives.
The main problem for me is that none of this was in the slightest bit convincing. The action didn't flow so much as it was forced along, just TRYING to be unpredictable. After a while it just gets so that the audience suspects everyone of being in on it, and frankly they are all such dislikable characters, we don't greatly care. The sex scenes are clearly in there to get attention and notoriety rather than being in the least bit sexy. The group of underaged boys that sneaked into my cinema of choice, left pretty soon after the steamy stuff- it was clear they had heard about the three in a bed scenes but they weren't interested in the plot. Probably wise.
The opening half hour or so where the scene is set is quite different, and Matt Dillon is nicely sympathetic as the accused teacher. I worry a little about Denise Richards- she is shot like a soft porn star here- wet t-shirts, skimpy swimwear, all teeth, hair and boobs. As in Starship Troopers, there is a touch of irony in the way she is shown as a sex object- vacant, beautiful and easy. If I were her agent though, I'd make sure she kept her clothes on next time as she is a little TOO good at playing the bimbo. We also get the wonderful Therese Russell as Kelly's mother- sexiness must run in that family. Another success amongst the performers in Bill Murray- perfect as the seedy lawyer, and Daphne Rubin-Vega, about the only decent and honourable character in the film. Kevin Bacon overacts, Neve Campbell is all noserings and black eyeliner.
As a thriller it keeps your attention, just about, but those supposedly surprising plot twists get very predictable after a while. The most intriguing part is the very end as the credits role as we see some of the scenes where the plot was hatched and the dirty deeds were done! Average performances, gratuitous nudity, nasty characters- fun I guess! 5/10

May 1998

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