Wild Things

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: John McNaughton

REVIEWED: 03-30-98

Dillon plays Sam Lombardo, the ladykiller-cum-boating instructor at a tony South Florida high school who finds himself accused of rape first by one leggy blonde student (Starship Troopers' Richards) and then another, darker one (Scream's Campbell) in this noirish sleazefest that plays like Basic Instinct meets Out of the Past and feels like Party of Five as directed by the Dark Brothers. McNaughton has come a long way since his personal high-water mark with 1990's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, though you wouldn't know it from this teasey, cheesy mess. Still, like Henry, Wild Things is shot in a filter-heavy, smeary-lens fashion that makes the blinding Florida sunshine look positively grimy (how anyone ever gets a tan in this film is one of the great mysteries of the universe). After the accusations, Sam takes on a shyster lawyer (played to the hilt by a goony, thoroughly believable Murray), while local detective Bacon tries to sort it all out. The fun of Wild Things -- and there's a lot of it -- is in its never-ending game of cross and double cross: Who's scamming who is the tune McNaughton's playing, along with who's screwing who, and of course that old standby: Is that really Kevin Bacon's penis? It's stupid, asinine stuff when you get right down to it, but fun nevertheless. Director of photography Jeffrey Kimball has a ball coming up with ingenious new ways to make Campbell (who needs help) and Richards (who doesn't) look slutty. Dillon, who apparently hasn't aged since The Flamingo Kid, has finally mastered the fine art of cinematic lechery. Even Russell's smallish part as Richard's rich floozy mom has zip to it, although she still sounds for all the world like she's reading her lines off the Goodyear Blimp. In keeping with the noir sensibility, there's no moral in this film -- except perhaps the old saw about good girls going to heaven and bad girls going everywhere. On second thought, scratch that: Wild Things has no good girls, just horny ones and dead ones (and maybe horny dead ones if someone can get George Romero to do a sequel). Brainless and trashy in the extreme, it's also the most canny fun to be had in a while, if you're partial to a swampside Cheez-Whiz nosh. One very important note: When "The End" comes onscreen, stay seated -- the film continues to unfold, with even more outlandish plot twists to follow. I have a gut feeling Wild Things is going to end up on a lot of otherwise respectable critics' "guilty pleasures" lists, not least of all mine.

3.0 stars

--Marc Savlov

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