Wild Things

1998, Movie, R, 113 mins

Review

WILD THINGS
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A sleazy, seamy, flashy, steamy, vulgar exploitation thriller that revels in every minute of its own trashiness and delivers some pretty solid -- if prurient -- entertainment before strangling in a one-twist-too-many ending. In sun-kissed Blue Bay, FL, where wealthy socialites live cheek to jowl with gator-wrestling swamp trash, hunky gold-digger Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), who works as a high-school guidance counselor, is about to take a gut-wrenching detour into tabloid hell. A wealthy Lolita, Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), accuses Lombardo of sexual assault, and a second student, wrong side of the tracks Suzie (Neve Campbell), soon adds her own tale of rape to the sordid outcry. Kelly's vindictive mom (Teresa Russell), one of many wealthy local women with whom Sam has had a fling, mounts a full scale legal campaign to destroy him. Local detectives Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) suspect there's more to the case than meets the eye, but are told to butt out by departmental higher-ups. Director John McNaughton, whose erratic career has lurched from the vicious indie high of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER to the bland, mainstream low of MAD DOG AND GLORY, gives this seedy malarky a fine, sweaty sheen and clearly sees the humor in the genre's excesses. You can feel it in the reaction shots of swamp wildlife, and you can almost hear him snickering over the truly bizarre casting, which includes the mummified-looking Robert Wagner as an old-money jurist, Bill Murray as a local ambulance chaser and Carrie Snodgress as Susie's white-trash grandma. The tawdry ambiance and wall-to-wall shots of fresh young flesh in various enticing states of undress fairly scream direct to video erotic thriller, but this vulgar romp through pulp-fiction cliches is hugely entertaining until it gets bogged down in the scummy meshes of its own plot. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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