Wild Things

The weather may be hot in Florida, but no where is it as sultry and sizzling as in the small, elite beach community of Blue Bay, where the rich and infamous play their blue blood parlor games. Robin Leach has taken us to these small corners of the world, where old money stands head and shoulders above everything else, including the law.


Into this volatile mix of suntans, sex, and sin comes high school counselor Sam Lombardo, a strapping hunk of a man who sets the world on fire with his penetrating dark eyes and looks. He’s a decent sort of guy, one willing to go out of his way to help his students. As embodied by Matt Dillon, Lombardo is the kind of man most women would love to fall in love, or just in bed with. That’s Lombardo’s problem.

He has a reputation with the women of Blue Bay, and now young and beautiful Kelly Van Ryan (Denis Richards) wants to add herself to that list. There’s just one problem: Kelly is one of Lombardo’s students, and in an awkward twist of fate, he has slept with her very rich and influential mother Sandra (Theresa Russell). That doesn’t stop Kelly from literally throwing herself at Lombardo, who does his best to dodge her efforts.

When a private moment turns ugly, Kelly cries rape, and sets in to motion a series of events that will set the small community on it’s ear. Welcome to the world of “Wild Things,” a smart and sexy thriller from director John McNaughton. Like Lawrence Kasdan’s “Body Heat,” “Wild Things” is a thriller that slowly smolders before igniting the screen with a risky tale of twists and double- crosses that never ceases to end. Kelly’s accusation brings in local police detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and his assistant Gloria Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega), who give Lombardo the benefit of a doubt.

The stakes are raised when Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, also accuses Lombardo of rape. Desperate, Lombardo turns to low-rent lawyer Ken Bowden (Bill Murray) for help. Once in court, the dubious Bowden comes alive, forcing Suzie to crack under pressure and admit that it was all a set up.

That leads to a dismissal of the charges, and a major lawsuit against the Van Ryan’s. Where the film leads after that requires that you see the film. Screenwriter Stephen Peters has invested way too much into this crafty thriller for me to divulge any more than I have. The film lives and dies on its ability to keep us on our toes, and with one twist after another, it’s a supreme balancing act.

Peters divulges just enough information to advance the plot without telegraphing the next twist or turn. McNaughton does a splendid job of pacing the film, allowing the characters time to develop without losing the tension.

Matt Dillon seems to get better with time. Not only does he look better, but he shows maturity and depth where none existed before. There are many layers to Sam Lombardo, and Dillon uncovers them all. Kevin Bacon, who also served as executive producer, is fine as the distraught detective who knows there’s more to the case than he’s willing to admit.

Bacon also does a “full Monty” during a shower scene that answers the burning question, “does wife Kyra Sedgwick have a slab of bacon with her breakfast quickie?” Like all decent film noir, “Wild Things” features several femme fatales who give Bacon, Dillon and the audience a run for their money. Neve Campbell takes time off from the “Scream” franchise to play the bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s excellent as the tough Suzie who gives new meaning to “trailer trash.”

Denise Richards, who battled monster bugs in “Starship Troopers,” has bigger fish to fry here as the man-hungry Kelly Van Ryan, who just exudes sexuality with her every move and word. The supporting cast dots this sexual landscape perfectly, especially Murray as the lawyer who sees his chance to get even with those who have spurned him.

With excellent production values and a funky score by George S. Clinton, “Wild Things” comes together as a hot and hip thriller that will catch most audiences off-guard. Hang around for the credits, where the filmmakers wisely fill in some of the gaps. You’ll be glad you stayed.

MENAGE A TWIST

[WILD THINGS

Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Robert Wagner, Bill Murray, Theresa Russell, Carrie Snodgress in a film directed by John McNaughton. Rated R. 108 Min.

LARSEN RATING: $6]



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