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Monday, 19 September 2016

Retro Review: Body Heat (1981)

Body Heat
Cast: Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, Ted Danson, Mickey Rourke, Richard Crenna
Genre: Neo-Noir Erotic Thriller
Studio: Warner Bros.
U.S Lifetime Gross: $24 million 

Plot: Shyster lawyer Ned Racine begins a passionate affair with Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), wife of a wealthy Florida businessman. With the help of one of his criminal clients, bomb maker Teddy Lewis (Mickey Rourke). Ned hatches a scheme to kill Matty's husband so they can run away together with his money. But complications build upon double crosses, latching the hapless lawyer into a situation far more treacherous than he imagined 

'Enjoyable, At Times Sensual Erotic ThrIller With Apprehensive Lead Characters' 

Body Heat is a 1940s/1950s style mystery thriller set in the modern day South of the 1980s and is an early example of mainstream erotic thrillers placed in the spotlight. 

William Hurt plays the dim-witted lawyer with a dodgy moustache, who falls for her Matty's charms - he is horny, corrupt and right from the beginning of the movie, we can tell he is a man with no moral standards, who prides himself using his womanising skills. Even though he is the main protagonist, and we are supposed to feel for the guy, Ned, he just comes across as rather slimy and a twit. He meets Matty at a bar and the two hit it off. She is married, but that doesn't stop the pair of them having an passionate-yet torrid affair. Then things take a dramatic, yet sinister turn when Matty coerces him to bump off her rich hubby, so she can get hold of his fortune. 

The main draw of this film is the sexual tension fuelled by passion and lust between Matty and Ned. Passion and lust can only be achieved on screen when two actors acting in the love scene have chemistry, and William Hurt and Kathleen Turner have that in abundance throughout this movie. Seeing Kathleen Turner as the seductress femme fatale and sultry voice, it's no wonder Robert Zemeckis turned to her to voice Jessica Rabbit in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'. 

As dim and gullible as he really is, it never occurs to Ned for one minute that this femme fatale is might be using him all along and that she isn't all what she seems. The danger signs were there, but he fell for her looks and charms and unfortunately, he loves money as much he loves Matty, all for some crooked plan. It's pretty clear the sex and the sweltering heat has had an adverse affect on our Neddy, as he becomes more and more naive, the longer she has him where she wants him.  

Even though it is an erotic thriller, it's not hardcore or pornographic: the sex scenes are presented in a suggestive manner, as opposed to it being full on, hardcore and full frontal nudity. 

Body Heat is a tale of seduction under the influence: Matty falls for Ned, only because she sees him as the ideal guy to kill her husband for her. To Ned, all he sees in Matty is a beautiful woman - yet he never manages to see through the type of person she is, deep down. That she has ulterior motives. That is until he finally caves in when he really falls for Matty so hard and he tells her her husband must die.

Any keen and perceptive viewer who watches this film will see that Matty is out to screw Ned (in a sexual sense), only for him to get 'screwed over' by her and that for all of her pleas, she doesn't really love him as much as she claims she does. 

There was one awkward looking scene when Ned - who is already topless- has his pants pulled down by Matty and Matty's niece catches them in on the act, and runs away. If only he did the right thing at that moment and had his pants zipped up. 

The performances are great, but I had very little sympathy for Ned and come the end of the film, I felt he got his comeuppance. When I realised that both Ned and Matty cared more about the money, even by killing the (awful) husband, I practically stopped supporting them. The twists were good and the film is entertaining to boot, even if it was a little too slow paced. After this movie, Kathleen Turner opted for more protagonist roles, as opposed to so-called antagonist roles - some worked (Romancing The Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Peggy Sue Got Married), some didn't (V.I Warshawski, Undercover Blues). Body Heat worked because of Kathleen Turner who brought that sensuality and chemistry on screen. 

There is some good suspense, acting and sense of style and the ending, whilst it was a little too much (the prison scene went on for longer than it should), was good and I liked that it turned out that way. 

Final Verdict:

Much much better than say the diabolical '90s erotic thriller, Color of Night with superior acting performances and a better script, though I didn't like Ned or Matty's husband very much. Kathleen Turner is the main draw of this movie and the film is entertaining and intriguing at times. There are some interesting brief appearances from Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke as well - whose characters for me were slightly more interesting than Ned played by William Hurt and Matty's husband. 

The sex scenes were raunchy - if not as raunchy compared to other R-rated and NC-17 erotic thrillers. 

Overall, Body Heat is a extremely good, tense and enjoyable thriller with some good twists, impressive performances and a story-line that becomes more absorbing as it goes on, despite the unsympathetic and suspicious lead protagonists/antagonist characters. 


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