[Film Review] The Last Seduction (1994)

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Title: The Last Seduction
Year: 1994
Country: USA, UK
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
Director: John Dahl
Writers: Steve Barancik
Music: Joseph Vitarelli
Cinematography: Jeff Jur
Linda Fiorentino
Peter Berg
Bill Pullman
Bill Nunn
J.T. Walsh
Dean Norris
Mike Lisenco
Rating: 7.2/10

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An American Neo-Noir thriller on the heels of BASIC INSTINCT (1992), trying to cash in on the splash of erotic charge, but story-wise John Dahl’s THE LAST SEDUCTION echoes more of Lawrence Kasdan’s sweltering BODY HEAT (1981), meanwhile stoutly posits its focal point in its femme fatale Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino).

On the spur of the moment (after being slapped by her doctor-in-training husband Clay), Bridget decamps from NYC with the $700,000 Clay (Pullman) has just obtained by selling stolen pharmaceutical cocaine to two drug dealers, and fetches up in a small town called Beston near Buffalo.

Using an alias to lie low when her lawyer is seeking to facilitate a divorce from Clay, Bridget hooks up with a local man Mike (Berg) for sexual gratification and patly rebuffs the latter’s knowing-each-other-more overtures, unlike Kathleen Turner using her body to entice William Hurt into her husband-killing plan in BODY HEAT, here Bridget’s motive is purely carnal (at least initially), and there is a comical vibe oozing from Mike’s dorky frustration of trying to deepen their liaison to little avail, he is her sex toy and he well twigs that she is too smart, too dangerous for his own good, but when the sensual satisfaction is mutually transmitted, a man of Mike’s wit just cannot make any wise decision because they all tend to live in the wish-fulfillment that their sexual prowess can eventually tame the lioness both physically and mentally. But Mike is not a lion, he is just an ordinary Joe with average sexual allure and common codes of moral behavior.

On the other hand, Bridget is not promiscuous in spite of her horny predisposition, Mike has remained as her only bedfellow under the circumstances, but when she needs someone to do away with Clay, who hires a private detective and is bent on having his doles back, she must wheedle a law-abiding Mike into a murderous vigilante, and this transitional arc is the meat of this erotic indie, and who would expect it is the deepest shame of homosexuality becomes the ultimate fillip in Bridget’s cunning scheme.

The film is soft-core in sight but ingrained feminist on the strength of Steve Baranick’s sometimes incoherent (if Bridget simples leaves and starts anew somewhere, never resorts to a divorce and never contacts Clay again, there will be a very different story to be told) but piquantly subversive script albeit its male angle, and Linda Fiorentino shall be hallowed as one of the most iconic femmes fatales in the film-noir history, her lethal sex appeal is never feel contrived, or rehearsed to flaunt or conquer, but strangely spontaneous, she can talk about risqué stuff as if she is narrating a poem (in the scene where she manipulates the black private eye played by Bill Nunn) and never degrades her part into hokum, Bridget is lack of empathy, predatory, sly but also whip-smart, dominant and intuitively self-empowering, she is not a woman you want to be entangled with, but it doesn’t hurt to put her on a pedestal for being uncompromisingly true to herself.

Peter Berg’s Mike is on a lesser note in terms of extraordinariness, an exceptional decision for him to convert to a career of directing blockbusters (HANCOCK 2008, BATTLESHIP 2012) and Mark Wahlberg vehicles. Bill Pullman is another humdinger here, poles away from his usual good-guy image, he is hilariously wacky and uncouthly sympathetic in this city-trash-versus-small-town-simpleton throw-down, for once, justice may not be justly served, but we all prefer this way!

referential points: Dahl’s ROUNDERS (1998, 5.9/10); Paul Verhoeven’s BASIC INSTINCT (1992, 7.0/10), Lawrence Kasdan’s BODY HEAT (1981, 7.9/10)

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