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Michael, a wimpy young executive, is about to get pulverized by a jealous boyfriend in a bar when a handsome, mysterious stranger steps in--and then disappears. Later that night, while jogging, Michael runs into the stranger on a pier. He introduces himself as Alex, and the two go out to an under- ground club. Within a matter of days, Alex wheedles his way into Michael's life and turns it upside down, and Michael doesn't realize that Alex is a dangerous sociopath until it's too late. Written by
Denise P. Meyer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
James Spader is typically engaging in the role of Michael, a wimpy yuppie who tends to not stand up for himself. He is about to get obliterated by a jealous boyfriend in a bar, when a stranger (Rob Lowe) steps in to save his ass. He ends up running into Lowe again, and thanks him, and a curious relationship develops. "Alex" (Lowe) introduces the element of risk into Michaels' life, and helps him "grow a pair", so to speak. But Michael soon learns that only dark things will come out of this supposed "friendship", and he realizes that he must eliminate Alex from his life.
"Bad Influence" is a decent thriller set in hip, "modern era" California, with various clubs and parties used as backdrops. Well shot by Robert Elswit, it boasts a screenplay by then relatively fresh screenwriter David Koepp. It may not be on the level of "Strangers on a Train", but it entertains in compelling enough fashion. The give and take between our hero and his nemesis creates sufficient tension, as Alex sets about trying to prove that he was merely exposing the hidden ugly side that Michael wasn't showing the world. As this plays out, you can't help but sympathize with Michael to some degree, as the story turns into this kind of nightmare that seems to have no end in sight. There are some sexy ladies in the cast, and a little dose of gore, so this thriller does deliver in terms of some sex and violence. Director Curtis Hanson, who at this time hadn't yet achieved mainstream recognition, guides it all in style.
Lowe is decent as the shady antagonist with the undetermined motives. He seems to be just plain evil. Spader outshines him, of course, and receives strong support from a cast including Lisa Zane, Kathleen Wilhoite, Marcia Cross, Tony Maggio, Grand L. Bush, and John de Lancie. Keep your eyes peeled for David Duchovny, who appears fleetingly in a club scene. Christian Clemenson delivers a standout performance as Michaels' slightly pathetic brother who tries to redeem himself in his siblings' eyes.
Solid entertainment that picks up considerably in its second half.
Seven out of 10.
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