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Wild Things
1998 - R - 108 Mins.
Director: John McNaughton
Producer: Kevin Bacon and Steven A. Jones
Written By: Stephen Peters
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Bill Murray, Robert Wagner
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Wild Things" is total trash. The movie takes the viewer for a wild ride, trying to implement twist after twist, before it finds itself stuck in a corner, and then desperately tries to resolve an uncountable number of issues, all the way through the closing credits. It's sleazy, sexy, and sometimes laughably silly. Theo Robertson writes, "Matt Dillon is even funnier here than in 'There's Something About Mary,' but...that that film was a comedy. 'Wild Things' is not."

Yet it has gained a huge cult following and an overall positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Why? I don't have a clue. This is the sort of movie that the critics should have bashed from the outset. It rips off the material of many crime and film noir mysteries, even aiming for the occasional Hitchcock-style music score. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I understood the plot twists, but after the film ends, the viewer feels cheated and very manipulated--characters' misdemeanors change in a matter of moments, to fit the whimsy of the script, and most of the time this means their actions in the past were pointless and totally irrelevant to the story. You have to see it to understand it.

Best described as a very poor man's "Usual Suspects," "Wild Things" is, above all else, a very sleazy (and lazy) sexploitation movie with lesbian sex scenes, threesome orgies, lesbian kisses, more sex scenes, nudity, another sex scene or two, and a lot of murder and double-crossing and innuendo. If you want sex, go rent porn. If you want great plot twists, rent "The Usual Suspects." If you want to see some great actors embarrassing themselves, rent "Wild Things."

The movie isn't too bad at first. Before the film tries to repetitively trick the audience, it's rather enjoyable. The problem is that the twists are all anti-climactic, predictable, silly, pointless, manipulative, and downright ridiculous. I dislike movies that try to control the audience's feelings by literally altering the characteristics of characters. That's exactly what "Wild Things" does. We never know who to root for, and just as we think we've found a good guy, he turns out to be a bad guy, pulls a gun on the other guy, or slips him poison, or hits him over the head with a wine bottle, and then we think, Oh, *he's* the bad guy! But then we realize that the guy he killed really isn't dead after all (despite having seen him kill the guy), and they're really trying to dupe this other guy into thinking he's dead, so they can trick the other guy when his back is turned, and...

You get the idea.

It's not that the movie is confusing. It's just stupid.

The first half is quite good. Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) is a guidance counselor, living in Florida, who is accused of rape by a student named Kelly (Denise Richards), whose mother used to fool around with Sam. At first, the accusations seem to be a childish attempt on Kelly's behalf to "get back" at Sam for never returning her frequent flirting. But then the town tramp, Suzie (Neve Campbell), claims that Sam raped her a year ago. We get the idea that something is going on beneath the surface, but we're not sure what. Eventually, with the help of a crooked lawyer (Bill Murray, the highlight of the film), Sam is able to clear his name, and get an $8 million settlement from Kelly's extremely rich mother. Robert Wagner also has a role in this movie, I believe as a representative of Kelly's family, although it's one that comes and goes freely, and I never fully understood the point of, other than to feature another huge star in a low-key soft porn movie.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon, who is first billed, but barely appears in the film more than 30 minutes) makes it a personal vendetta to get to the bottom of the case and figure out what's really going on. But don't hold your breath: beneath the surface, there's another surface, and beneath that one, yet another. Is Lombardo the bad guy? Duquette? The Murray character? How about Suzie? Kelly?

By the end of the movie, during the end credits -- while it was *still* trying to resolve unresolvable issues -- I simply didn't care anymore. I "got" the plot twists but I can't really say that I cared at all about any of the characters by that point in time.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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