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  Last Seduction, The When She Was Bad She Was Better
Year: 1994
Director: John Dahl
Stars: Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullman, J.T. Walsh, Bill Nunn, Brien Varady, Dean Norris, Donna Wilson, Mik Scriba, Herb Mitchell, Renee Rogers, Walter Addison, Mike Lisenco, Serena, Michelle Davison, Jack Shearer, Erik Anders-Nilsson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) works in a call centre as one of the team bosses, where she knows what an incentive money can be to getting people to do what she wants. People like her husband Clay (Bill Pullman) who while she is finishing for the day at the office, is selling a large batch of medical cocaine he pilfered from his job as a doctor for a large sum; initially he thinks he has been taken for a ride, but his contacts wordlessly take the drugs and drop the bundles of cash on the ground. He gathers them up, stuffs them in his shirt and heads home to find Bridget waiting for him, where she drily calls him an idiot for his method of transportation, receiving a slap for her comment. No, Clay isn't the greatest of husbands, but then again it gives her the perfect excuse...

To do what? To run off with the fortune, that was what, in one of those film noir revivals of the nineteen-nineties of which this was an example brought into the world by British company ITC, best known for their television, which was why this debuted on the small screen. However, word of mouth was so strong, especially thanks to Fiorentino's performance as one of the most devious femmes fatales you ever did see, that it graduated to cinemas and was shown in those venues around the world, making her a briefly shining star of the decade. There was talk of an Oscar until the Academy pointed out they didn't hand over gongs for television movies, and would not be swayed when it was pointed out this was as much a big screen effort, maybe even more so.

Anyway, The Last Seduction was relegated to cult status, mostly thanks to the glee the audience could take in Bridget's humorous amorality which was really the engine Steve Barancik's script was powered by. It was clear that ITC wanted a Basic Instinct clone, or at least something Shannon Tweed fans wouldn't feel shortchanged by, but everyone in the production were more keen to explore the archetypes of film noir with a savage amusement, and Fiorentino proved the ideal embodiment of that with her calculating Bridget. Oddly, come the end of the nineties her stardom was more or less over, thanks to rumours of bad behaviour and being difficult to get on with; she barely graced the screen since then, though her fans prefer to believe she was too much of her own woman to tolerate the Hollywood merry-go-round.

Whatever the reasons, or a mixture of the two, we will always have this to observe a masterclass of how to make an unlikeable personality engaging, as we watch Bridget compulsively while she wraps the men around her little finger, even when they are well aware she's doing so. She ends up in a small town an hour's drive from Buffalo to hide out with the money until she works out a way of getting a vengeful Clay out of the picture, and you can see her piecing together a plan just as her husband does his level best to track her down. He knows her all too well, so you'd think he'd be able to better her in this game of wits, but she proves too wily: a notable aspect of this genre's revival in this era was the sympathy these films would have for the antiheroine, willing them on and practically cheering when they conspired to get things going their way.

Every femme fatale needs her fall guy, so if Clay is reluctant, how about a nice but dim chap who is far more willing? In the small town's bar, Bridget meets Mike Swale (Peter Berg, a future director in his own right), and he is keen to get acquainted so offers a chat up line that actually wins her interest. Before he knows it, they are partners in sex, though not the romance he craves with a sophisticated woman from out of town who just might take him away from all this, but the manner in which he keeps needling Bridget for information, not to mention hope, leaves him vulnerable to her manipulation. By the halfway point where we are confronted with the fact she is not above murder to keep the situation on her side, it's likely too late for Mike - and us, for we feel complicit since we were enjoying her charismatic nastiness too much. Add in J.T. Walsh as a lawyer friend, playing his scenes entirely on the phone yet still reminding us why he is so missed, and Bill Nunn as the smart but not smart enough detective, and you had yesterday's clich├ęs warmed over yet still tasty. Music by Joseph Vitarelli.

[The Network Blu-ray looks about as good as a film of this vintage and source is likely to get, and features a trailer and a short documentary as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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