Right from the start he comes off as very sure of himself, playing the macho man who knows he can have any woman, places his arms around her, holds her hand and they haven't known each other for an hour.
The film is so smooth though someone may miss the signs. We see them having fun, we see him playing tricks on her, buying her expensive gifts, playing with her like a little child, chasing after some children all smiles and joy. We also see them having fun in the bedroom where he always takes the lead.
But at moments, there are scenes in which we see him get mad at her when she doesn't follow his orders like she always did and throw or hit things. He doesn't stop even when she's crying and afraid of him. He only tries to wipe the incidents out of her memory by kissing her and having sex with her. No apology, no talk over the matter, no self-examination in order to become a better man.
That is because he simply does not care about what she wants. This is a game to him. He finds vulnerable women looking for a thrill, he manipulates them with his charming ways, gifts and money and then he asks them to do things they perhaps would have never done if it were not for him. When they do not comply, he loses control and shows his bad side.
It is easy for someone to fall for his good looks, soft voice and great sense of style and the film does exactly that: it puts you in Kim Basinger's shoes. You fall in love with John (Mickey Rourke) like she did, so you do understand why she hasn't left yet or why it took her so long to leave him but you also feel the heartache she experiences when he doesn't show up like she asked him to -do something for her for a change.
It is easy to judge her character in this film or any real woman over their decision not to leave a toxic or abusive person, but the truth is, every human being doesn't want to believe their partner does not love them. We try to find excuses to justify their mistakes, we hope they will change over time, we tell ourselves the good times are more than the bad ones and we've become so emotionally attached we can't just throw it all away for a couple of flaws.