Wild Things Reviews
The acting was pretty great from everyone, especially loved Richards and Campbell playing bad girls. Normally I don't like a film to be too raunchy, but Wild Things needed that erotic push to make it truly great. No spoilers please!
"Wild Things" isn't high entertainment, no, but it has a way with drawing us into its potboiler world of deceit and carnal sweat - it's trash good enough to trick us into thinking that it isn't such. Without its many scenes of Vaseline-on-the-camera, slow-motion, sexy-time fuckery, I imagine it would be more highly regarded as something better than what they play on Showtime after hours. Because, skin flashes aside, this is a credible, involving neo-noir smarter than any middle schooler would have you believe.
Matt Dillon portrays Sam Lombardo, a high school guidance counselor living on the wealthier side of Florida. He's a recent winner of the area's "Teacher of the Year" award, with most of the female student body dramatizing their troubles in order to get closer to him; the staff sees him as one of their finest. But he's rather oblivious to the romantic attention that surrounds his persona. Hapless is he to his appeal.
Unexpected to him, though, is the downturn his career is about to take. After taking up the slinky Kelly Van Ryan's (Denise Richards) offer to wash his car for charity, he finds himself perplexed that the girl, the most attractive and rich in town, has told the police that he raped her, due to his rebuffing of her come-ons. So he finds himself in the middle of a high-profile lawsuit, only made worse when trailer trash Suzie (Neve Campbell) imitates Kelly's claims and lands him in even hotter water. Local cop Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) has an underlying feeling that something is afoot, and without giving away the film's many breathtaking plot twists, he's right.
The further I traveled into the dark depths of "Wild Things," the more I found myself frustrated that it has been billed as a sort of quasi-porno for the Skinemax crowd since its release, just for what comes down to about maybe five or six minutes of hot and heavy make out sessions, pre-sex interludes. What's been ignored in the last two decades or so, thanks to scummy man-children who handle sexuality in film like a dog acts around a hamburger, is an ingeniously plotted thriller that would make Brian De Palma proud.
I can partially blame the director, John McNaughton, for "Wild Things's" rampant reputation. The film certainly doesn't need to be so sexual, and there's a feeling that he knew simple minded audiences might have trouble staying with such a complicated plot - after all, it's more reliant on dialogue, on intrigue, than most thrillers. Unfortunately, sex sells, and "Wild Things" feels a lot cheaper than it actually is because it squeezes in gratuities for the sake of public attention.
But there's much to like here, and I found great enjoyment devouring the many tricks the film has up its sleeves. It's like "Peyton Place," just set in Florida and drowned in a lot more dirt. Dillon makes for an enigmatic anti-hero, and Bacon gets to chew a lot of scenery as the straight-laced cop. I particularly relished Richards and Campbell, who bring the film to deliriously outrageous levels with their lethal combination of wickedness and sultriness. Bill Murray stops by with a hilarious supporting turn as a slimy lawyer.
"Wild Things" pushes boundaries left and right, making it more intent on shocking than it is on being confident enough to let its storyline speak for itself. The sexual elements are problematic, but the knowing atmosphere, combined with the breathy punches of the plot, turns it into a special, scrumptious little B-movie treat.