Seduction. Lies. Rape. Betrayal. Murder. Alligators. Just another day by the pool for the denizens of tiny Blue Bay, Florida, the setting for Wild Things - the darkly funny thriller hot from director John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). Beneath its unassuming title hides a movie that is a mixture of film noir and dry comedy, and turns out to be very surprising, very nasty and very, very entertaining.
The gleefully wicked story has an absurd number of twists and turns. The revelations and shocks continue after "The End" - when a series of clips intercut with the closing credits finally uncover how it all really got started. To reveal more will only spoil the enjoyment that the twists and counter-twists create.
The events are too self-conscious to be taken seriously, but that's the whole point; Wild Things is a ink-black comedy masquerading as a mystery thriller. McNaughton and screenwriter Stephen Peters have created a world with nary a true hero in sight, poisoned with money and absent of love, where sex is a deadly weapon and betrayal is the rule. It's a place where everyone is gorgeous and everyone is corrupt.
The performances are solid all round. Dillon's turn is surprisingly subtle (it's not clear how subtle until the very end) and Bacon lends some credible weight to the film. Campbell dives into her role, clearly enjoying the opportunity to move away from her good-girl image. Richards is allowed to break free from her one-dimensional Starship Troopers character, looks great and acts well enough. But the sexiest performance comes from newcomer Daphne Rubin-Vega. As Bacon's detective partner, this New York stage veteran smoulders her way through what could have been a bland and thankless role.
The story is peppered with fiendish delights - a motel ménage à trois that edges dizzyingly close to being porno-graphic, a glistening night-time fight-turned-lesbian-love-scene, and Bill Murray, who hilariously underplays his fine supporting turn as Lombardo's sleazy defence lawyer. In addition, Richards bares almost all and Bacon's member turns up for a brief but surprising cameo.
The whole film has a glossy, fashion-shoot look that contrasts effectively with the malicious action, although there are too many shots of alligators poking their noses up from beneath the water of the nearby swamps. (We get it. There is danger beneath the surface here. Can we have more sex now, please?)
George S Clinton contributes a memorably wry score to the steamy proceedings and, all told, Wild Things is more funny than scary. There's no heart-pounding suspense here, but if you've been bored with predictable Hollywood plots, try this one on for size.