[Screen It]


(1998) (Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon) (R)

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Smoking Tense Family
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Suspense/Thriller: A detective team tries to discover whether there's more than meets the eye regarding two high school students who've accused their guidance counselor of raping them on separate occasions.
Sam Lombardo (MATT DILLON) is a handsome and sexy high school guidance counselor in Blue Bay, Florida, an upper crust yachting community where the wealthy Van Ryan family essentially controls everything. With a reputation for being a ladies man, Sam also draws the attention of the young female students, including Kelly Van Ryan (DENISE RICHARDS), who continually tries to seduce him.

After finally getting him alone in his home, she later confesses to her mother, Sandra (THERESA RUSSELL) that Sam raped her. Their attorney, Tom Baxter (ROBERT WAGNER) wants Sam locked away, but detectives Ray Duquette (KEVIN BACON) and Gloria Perez (DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA) have their doubts. Although Sam denies the charges, a later admittance by Suzie Troller (NEVE CAMPBELL) -- a rebellious girl from the wrong side of the tracks -- that he also raped her, sends him to jail.

With legal defense from low-end lawyer and professional ambulance chaser Ken Bowden (BILL MURRAY), Sam hopes to clear his name during the following trial. A surprise testimony, however, sends the community reeling and soon detectives Duquette and Perez have their work cut out for them as they try to figure out if there's something more going on between the accused and his accusers. As they do so, twists and turns and double-crosses follow, and one is never sure how any of it will conclude.

If they're fans of someone in the attractive, high profile cast, or of steamy/sexy thrillers, they just might.
For strong sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.
Without giving away too much of the plot, but considering the final appearance and bad behavior of the major characters, it's doubtful that many parents would consider any of them as good role models, considering the murderous intentions, sexual activity (Dillon, Richards and Campbell), and pot smoking (Campbell), etc...


OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Set in the swampy background of Southern Florida where different species of wildlife often unexpectedly and violently turn on each other, Columbia Pictures' latest release, "Wild Things," features similarly tempered creatures, but of the human variety. Filled with enough twists, turns and double-crosses for several movies, this feature should please moviegoers who want to be left continually guessing "whodunit" and wondering how the final events will unfold right up until the end credits roll.

While that sounds like a "wild" time, not everything that occurs is completely unpredictable. The initial twists and turns -- that signal the beginnings of the ever evolving plot and that occur during a pivotal court case scene -- might catch some viewers by surprise. Seasoned audiences, however, will probably sense those initial twists not far from the start, but after that, it's anyone's guess about what new wrinkles the filmmakers will throw in to stir things up. Once the sixth or seventh (and then more) revelation is unfurled, you simply won't be able to predict where they'll eventually stop the shenanigans.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of plots twists and double-crosses soon begins to dampen their momentary -- as well as collective -- impact on the audience. It's not that the ensuing moments aren't interesting -- in fact they somewhat turn the movie into a guessing game about which character will be the final perpetrator. It's just that the guessing lessens their impact and the overall number simply prevents any of them from individually being that shocking.

Don't leave when the credits begin, however, as several "tack on" segments actually wrap up (ie. explain) everything that preceded them. While that's an interesting and certainly welcomed plot device (since we finally learn the truth about some events that become confusing in a near ludicrous way as more twists were thrown onto the growing pile), it also comes off as something of a cheap way out of the story.

Essentially a modified deus ex machina (a plot device from ancient Greek and Roman Theater where a god suddenly descended from the heavens to resolve and/or explain the story), these interjected scenes make it seem as if writer Stephen Peters and director John McNaughton ("Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer") couldn't sufficiently explain and conclude everything in the main body of the movie. It's similar to the old TV and movie mysteries where one character would explain everything that occurred (including character motivations) to the rest of the characters, and consequently the audience as well, in the last-minute conclusion that's punctuated by flashbacks to the pivotal scenes. Even so, they do finally explain some events and actions that seemed ridiculous as they occurred, and thus erase one's initial notions that the film was getting sloppy.

The performances from the leads are all decent and certainly don't give away any of the plot secrets early on as the actors all play rather stereotypical parts. Dillon ("In And Out," "Drugstore Cowboy") plays the impoverished lothario whose handsome good looks draw in the ladies of all ages, although he professionally tries to avoid romantic contacts with his students -- or so we're led to think. Bacon ("Picture Perfect," "Apollo 13") plays the characteristically determined cop who smells a conspiracy and continuously pursues it even when everyone around him doubts his beliefs. Although his is probably the weakest of the major roles, Bacon is good in it.

On the fairer side of the genders, we have Denise Richards ("Starship Troopers") as the stereotypically spoiled rich girl with a curvaceous body that she uses to her decidedly great advantage. Finally, there's Neve Campbell (TV's "Party of Five" and the "Scream" movies) who convincingly plays the rebellious and troubled girl from the "wrong side of the tracks." After things get rolling and the twists begin sprouting, however, the characters meld into a blur as one begins to never quite be sure of anyone's true motivations.

The supporting performances vary from Daphne Rubin-Vega's (in her screen debut) competent take as Bacon's partner, to Robert Wagner's (TV's "Hart To Hart") outrageously bad performance as the wealthy family's personal attorney. Seeing him here not only makes one think that his character "Number Two" from "Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery" survived and moved to southern Florida, but his and another actor's appearance nearly -- but momentarily -- turn the movie into a comedy.

That other actor is Bill Murray who gives a brief, but fabulous turn as a disheveled, low-end attorney better known for his ambulance chasing (brilliantly displayed by his wall-to-wall collection of client pictures that feature a bevy of cast and neck-brace equipped injury victims). Dressed in a wrinkled, light-blue suit and announcing to his assistant on the office intercom not to disturb him -- although the office is empty and she's less than ten feet away -- Murray is a hoot playing a legal defender (talk about going against type!). After some brief, funny moments, however, his character disappears and we return to the ever-growing list of more twists and turns.

Beyond all of those swirling plot elements -- which must have had McNaughton and Peters using a flow chart to diagram the twisted progression -- the film is also noted for its steamy scenes. Playing to what appears to be the stereotypical and collective male fantasy, there's a three-way sex scene (Dillon with Campbell and Richards), and some lesbian implications and brief scenes. We're also "treated" to lots of close-up images of seductive young ladies including the obligatory car washing scene where Richards ends up in soaking wet clothing that clings to her shapely body.

Conversely, the film offers a rare cinematic sight as Bacon provides the audience with "The Full Monty" (full frontal nudity -- unlike the film of the same title that only teased the audience). Although the scene is essentially unnecessary (although it makes one wonder if another twist is going to follow it), it almost seems as if it's making amends for all of the lusty shots of Campbell, Richards and the other shapely and often skimpily dressed women.

Even so, it's the many twists and turns that will have people talking about this film. It certainly succeeds in delivering more than its quota, and George S. Clinton's rhythmic and noir-like soundtrack accentuates the sultry, murder/mystery aura that permeates the film. Although I was initially lukewarm about this feature due to the overabundance of those twists and turns, and what appeared at the time to be plot problems and unbelievable character actions -- all of which are rectified in the closing credits -- the more time that has passed and the more that I've thought about the film, the better I've found myself liking it.

For those who don't like films such as "Basic Instinct" (another sexy, twist-filled thriller) this probably isn't a good movie for you. For others, however, who don't mind a decidedly adult thriller that presents a "fun" game of whodunit that will keep you guessing until the theaters lights come back up, you might just get a kick out of this film. We give "Wild Things" a 7 out of 10.

Sexual material, profanity, and violence highlight what most parents (and other concerned viewers) will probably find objectionable in this film. Several graphic sexual encounters show movement and nudity, and one involves a three-way sex scene (one guy and two women) that also leads into some lesbian behavior (that continues as kissing in a following scene). Beyond the nudity that occurs in those, there's non-sexual, full frontal male nudity as well as plenty of shots of young, shapely women in tight or wet clothing.

Profanity is extreme with more than 30 "f" words and an assortment of others, and beyond some drinking, Neve Campbell's character also occasionally smokes pot. Several murders occur and some of them are a little bloody which, when combined with the overall double-crossing and other material, makes none of the major characters good role models for kids to emulate. One should be aware, however, that while we see certain events, not all of them are what they appear to be, and the same holds true for nearly all of the characters. Since a fair amount of teens might want to see this film, you should read through the material to determine whether it's appropriate for them, or for anyone else in your home.

  • Sam orders a rum and coke in a bar (where others drink), but we don't see him consume any.
  • Sam drinks rum.
  • It's mentioned that Denise "was coked (cocaine) out of her gourd" after her father's suicide (sometime in the past).
  • Some characters drink champagne.
  • Suzie smokes several joints (marijuana) during the movie.
  • Suzie and Kelly drink liquor from the bottle and Suzie appears to be drunk/stoned.
  • Sam drinks a beer.
  • Some people drink beer, while others later have cocktails.
  • A man's head is bloody after his vehicle is run off the road and into a swamp.
  • Blood flies through the air as a person is bludgeoned with a bottle. We then briefly see the body wrapped in plastic and the person's face is somewhat bloody. The assailant then wipes blood from their face. Later, a few of the victim's teeth are found at the site.
  • A person's shoulder is a little bloody from a gunshot wound.
  • A person who's been shot with a spear gun is somewhat bloody as is the water around them.
  • A person who's been shot has two bloody bullet holes in their chest.
  • Without going into exact details that would spoil the plot, it's sufficient to say that nearly all of the major characters have both as most of them are involved in criminal activity and/or double- crossing others.
  • Some students at a lecture boo Duquette and Perez when the detectives are introduced.
  • Kelly asks Suzie if she got her shoes from "Whores For Less?"
  • Suzie has both as not only do we learn that she has a record of shoplifting and being expelled from school, but she acts disrespectful during a court case.
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as also tense and suspenseful. In addition, the film has an overall tense atmosphere that grows as the story progresses.
  • Shotgun: Used by Kelly to shoot skeet on her mother's estate.
  • Handgun: Used to shoot and kill someone.
  • Spear gun: Used to shoot and kill someone.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (toward women and used several times), "Skanky bitch," "Loser," "Screwed up," "Screw me over," "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Piss," "Pissed," "Hell hole," "Balls" (testicles), "Freak" and "Retarded."
  • Suzie gives Kelly "the finger" and Ken does the same as he drives past the Van Ryans.
  • Kelly and Suzie accuse Sam of raping them on separate occasions.
  • A person pulls out one of their own teeth using pliers (seen from a distance).
  • A person suddenly knocks on another person's window.
  • There is a heavy amount of murder/mystery type suspenseful music throughout much of the production.
  • There's a song in the end credits called, "Murder For Money" and it contains the words/phrases, "G-damn" and "God forsaken."
  • At least 32 "f" words (4 used sexually and 3 others used with "mother"), 19 "s" words, 2 slang terms using male genitals ("pr*ck" and "c*cks*cker"), 1 slang term for female genitals ("tr*m") and another possible one (the "c" word), 3 asses, 2 damns, 1 S.O.B., 1 hell, and 10 uses of "G- damn," 7 uses of "Jesus," 4 of "For Christ's sakes," 2 each of "Oh God" and "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "Christ," "My God" and "God forsaken" as exclamations.
  • When Sam gives a lecture about sex crimes, he mentions the word "meditate" to which someone yells out "You mean masturbate," and then we hear, "I'm sure you've got hands on experience..." Moments later when the question is posed, "What is a sex crime?" a student yells out, "Not getting any."
  • We see Sandra in a cleavage-revealing bikini.
  • As Kelly and her female friend wash Sam's car, they spray each other with water and their soaked clothes cling to their shapely bodies, a fact that the camera does not miss as it lingers on their body parts (butts, legs, chest, etc...).
  • Sandra has sex on top of a man. We see lots of movement as well as glimpses of her bare butt and breasts and we hear loud sexual sounds.
  • Sandra tells Sam, "You're a good lay," suggesting that they've had sex before.
  • Kelly describes Sam "raping" her (which may or may not be true). She says that he rubbed her shoulders and then put his hands inside her shorts and "his fingers were in me...you know, both places..." Gloria then asks "Did he put himself inside you?" and she says yes, but then adds that he stopped and said, "Don't worry, I didn't come. No little girl can make me come."
  • Sam gets a drawing of himself with a girl's face planted at his crotch (suggesting oral sex).
  • Sam, Kelly and Suzie have a sensuous, three-way sex scene. He feels Kelly's breast (she has her bra on), and then lifts up her skirt (we see her bare butt in her thong underwear) and removes her underwear. Kelly and Suzie then passionately kiss. We later see Kelly's bare breasts as Sam pours champagne on them and then licks it off. There's more kissing (between everyone involved) and Suzie removes her top (but her back is to us) and it's then implied that the three have sex.
  • The camera focuses on Kelly in a one-piece bathing suit as she comes out of a swimming pool in slow motion. Moments later, we can clearly see her breasts through her wet bathing suit.
  • Kelly and Suzie begin kissing each other in a pool and start to undress (but we see this from a distance and the scene stops before anything happens).
  • We see Kelly in her jeans and bra (showing some cleavage).
  • We see Ray in the shower and see his bare butt and then a brief glimpse of full frontal nudity when he turns around.
  • We briefly see some photographs of a sexual encounter (a man behind a woman), but don't see any nudity.
  • A woman who knows Suzie smokes a few times, and we see another man at that same location with a cigar in his mouth.
  • Ray smokes a cigar.
  • Kelly cries and she and her mother briefly talk about her father killing himself (sometime in the past).
  • Accusing someone of rape (or any other crime) that didn't occur. As Sam's character says about the allegations, "You never get clear of something like this...it stays around forever."
  • To prevent giving away too much of the plot, we've kept some of the identities hidden in the following descriptions. In addition, while what's listed is seen, not all of it is necessarily completely real.
  • A man's vehicle is driven off the road and into a swamp where his assailant then repeatedly punches him.
  • Kelly throws a glass at Suzie, and later throws things at Sam.
  • Ray slams Suzie against a wall and briefly has his hand on her throat.
  • Kelly and Suzie slap each other and then get into a fight in a swimming pool where Kelly holds Suzie's head under the water.
  • A person is bludgeoned to death with a bottle.
  • A person hits another person, we then hear gunshots, and see the first person walk out with a gunshot wound to the shoulder (the second time we see the shooting).
  • A person tries to kill another person but isn't successful. The intended victim, however, is then shot twice with a spear gun.
  • A person is poisoned and dies.

  • Reviewed March 16, 1998

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