Wild Things Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998


People aren't always what they appear to be... don't forget that.

Taken for what it is, "Wild Things" piles on the sleaze and the cheese, and piles it high! Overflowing with gratuitous violence and even more gratuitous sex, this campy take on the erotic thriller genre is a hoot from start to finish with its nudge-nudge-wink-wink form of irreverence.

Where's your hose, Mr. Lombardo?

Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon of "In & Out") is a high school guidance counselor in the sunswept marina town of Blue Bay, Florida. He finds himself the subject of the amorous attention of one of his students, the comely Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards, last seen in "Starship Troopers") who is also the daughter of the town's richest woman, Sandra Van Ryan (Theresa Russell). One Sunday afternoon, Kelly drops by Lombardo's house to wash his jeep, and ends up inviting herself inside the house with the intention of seducing Sam. However, not long after, she flees the house in tears, and confesses to her mother that she had been raped by Sam. Detectives Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon, last seen in "Picture Perfect") and Gloria Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) are put in charge of the investigation, while Sandra does everything she can to punish Sam for the alleged attack on her daughter. At first, the detectives are skeptical of Kelly's assertions, but when dope-smoking trailer-trash Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell of "Scream" and "Scream 2") comes forward with similar allegations, the criminal proceedings move forward at full speed. Sam hires himself an inept, ethically-challenged, and insurance-defrauding lawyer, Ken Bowden (Bill Murray), and the high-profile trial sets off a twisted chain-of-events full of sexual intrigue, betrayal, and (you guessed it) murder.

What's a sex crime?
Not gettin' any!

WT has a lot going in its favor. The convoluted plot is loaded with twists and turns (some predictable, and some not), and even if you have seen the trailer, it is sure to delight for its spontaneity. And even more importantly, the plot keeps in mind its own internal logic, and as each revelation is made, the preceding scenes can often be viewed in a different light, given the context of the new information. In fact, the closing credits are interlaced with additional scenes that fill-in-the-blanks for the twisted scheme, from start to finish. WT is also loaded with both intentional and seemingly unintentional humor, with its melodramatic soap opera-style theatrics, the trashy posturing of its characters, and the wonderfully silly throwaway lines. Best of the archetypes include Theresa Russell as the town's oversexed matron, Bill Murray as the showy solicitor, and Robert Wagner, whose role pokes fun his usual staid and monied image.

On the other hand, because all the characters are archetypes of the sorts of people you find populating the generic erotic thriller, their shallow characterizations make them difficult for the audience to root for, leading to a lack of emotional resonance in the film. By the end, when all the bodies have been disposed of, I doubt you'll have any emotions for the remaining characters-- no great sense of accomplishment, relief, pity, nor resentment. The pacing could have been a little bit tighter also, forgoing the abundance of distracting Everglade wildlife shots that did not add much to the atmosphere of the film, or the scenes that went on a little too long. And though the casting and marketing of WT seems to be aimed at the "Scream" teenage demographic, the subject matter is clearly adult, with a couple of scenes that border on soft-core pornography-- but then again, if that is what you're looking for, you certainly won't be disappointed.

All in all, "Wild Things" does for the bygone erotic thriller what "Scream" did for the slasher-flick-- pokes fun at the established conventions of the genre in a wildly entertaining vehicle. And what it loses in its largely unsympathetic characters and slow-pacing, it certainly makes up in 'gee-whiz' moments.


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