In a balmy summer heatwave in the American Deep South, the not-terribly-good defense lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt with a 70s pornstar moustache) makes a random encounter with wealthy, sultry Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), who is unhappily married to Edmund (Richard Crenna), a good man who is always away on business. Ned and Matty begin an illicit and steamy affair, and both decide that they’d be better off financially and romantically if Edmund were no longer around, so Ned, with the help of Mickey Rourke’s criminal consultant, sets out to murder him.
What sets this apart from the rest of the noir genre it draws obvious inspiration from is the copious nudity and sex scenes between the two leads, which are excessive even by today’s standards, as well as several shots of Richard Crenna in his underwear that I could have done without.
I was surprised that the plot didn’t contain more twists and turns, as in the end it was all fairly straightforward. For instance, I assumed early on that Matty’s husband Edmund would be in cahoots with either Ned or Matty, but in fact Edmund has very little to do in the story. In fact, his character arc is completed so early on that I was intrigued as to where the plot would go next. Also, some elements are set up with no eventual payoff – Matty’s niece catching Ned doing something he shouldn’t be doesn’t end up with her identifying him to the police – which led me to think that either we were deliberately fed loose threads to keep us guessing, or it’s just sloppy writing, though seeing as writer/director Lawrence Kasdan also wrote Star Wars Episodes V and VI, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Big Chill, it’s probably the former.
I was surprised to see just how attractive Kathleen Turner used to be, as other than her vocals in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’ve only ever known her as the dog trainer in Marley & Me (I have never willingly watched the film, it’s a favourite of the girlfriend) and as Chandler Bing’s drag-queen father in Friends, so I was rather confused that someone with such nice legs and skin could go on to be, well, Kathleen Turner.
There have been better noirs made before this (Double Indemnity) and after (Coen brothers’ debut Blood Simple), and if it weren’t for the aforementioned raunchiness there’s little chance of it being remembered today. The film isn’t necessarily bad, but its not revolutionary either.
Choose life 6/10