Ned Racine is a seedy small town lawyer in Florida. During a searing heatwave he's picked up by married Matty Walker. A passionate affair commences but it isn't long before they realise the only thing standing in their way is Matty's rich husband Edmund. A plot hatches to kill him but will they pull it off?Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
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This is a very cleverly contrived sexploitation thriller, penned and directed by the talented Lawrence Kasdan. It stars Academy-Award winner (Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1985) William Hurt with a mustache and a dangling cigarette as Ned Racine, a not overly bright Florida lawyer smitten by Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner in her steamy film debut) a rich housewife with a husband she hates, and a yearning to breathe free. Shades of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, both triangle murder tales made into film noirs.
Kasdan is cribbing, but I forgive him since in some ways his film is an improvement on both the novels and the films they inspired, plus his is a kind of satire on those films with numerous witticisms. I especially liked it when Matty describes her husband, Edmund, a hard-nosed and successful financier played repulsively by Richard Crenna: "I can't stand the thought of him. He's small and mean and weak." Ned gives this some serious thought and then kisses her on the head like she's a good little girl.
Not too much later, after the first mention of the murder, immediately in the very next scene, Kasdan does a little foreshadowing with lawyer Ned visiting the jail. The steel door clangs shut behind him, startling him and causing him to jump in fright. I also liked the fog on the night of the murder, and I especially liked it when Ned, after putting the body in the trunk, closes the lid to reveal Matty standing there directly in our line of sight, a kind of visual witticism. I also liked the scene in which the lawyers are sitting around the varnished wood with Matty and the woman she has shrewdly cheated, and the lead lawyer asks if anyone would like to smoke. Everybody (except Ted Danson) eagerly and immediately lights up. Ted says he'll just breathe the air. This is a little in-joke satire by Kasdan on the fact that Hollywood movies of the day were financially encouraged by the tobacco companies to show the players happily puffing away as often as possible.
William Hurt really is excellent, almost as good as he was in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and that was very good indeed. Turner is completely believable as a voracious and greedy femme fatale with a wondrous criminal mind. The dialogue is sharp and clever throughout; especially interesting are the dueling "pick-up" rejoinders by Ned and Matty when they first meet. Noteworthy is the performance of Ted Danson of TV's "Cheers" fame as a prosecutor in black-rimmed specs. He has some spiffy lines of his own and he does a great job, as does Mickey Rourke as Teddy Lewis, Ned's fire-bombing buddy.
The plot twists are in some sense anticipated, but the exact nature of their unfolding is fascinating to watch. Indeed, Kasdan's snappy direction of his diabolically wicked tale is practically seamless. This is not to say that it was perfect. I have to point out that the scene in which Matty is in the tub with Ned and he dumps more ice cubes in to cool her off is a little on the contrived side since they surely had air conditioning. She claims to a natural body temperature of 100, reminding me of the classic rock lyric, "I'm hot-blooded, check it and see/I've got a temperature of a hundred and three." Also Matty's seduction of Ned was a little too fortuitous. I don't think she would have left so much to chance. But I liked the beginning anyway because it led us to believe that this would be a tale of sexual obsession (which in part it is) and not just an adulterous murder thriller. I also could not, even though I rewound the video, catch what was said in the final scene. (Probably that's just my ears going the way of the waist line.)
Be advised that the sex is indeed steamy. If explicit sex offends you, you will be offended. Of course I was not. Indeed I found it somewhat refreshing to see a movie in which there is only sexual appetite without any pretense of love or redemption, just lust and its accompanying disillusionment.
This is film noir for 1981 just before the rise of AIDS and the sexual self-censorship that Hollywood embraced (as it switched to more explicit violence). See it with your mistress.
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