You know from the very start that Body Heat, Lawrence Kasdan’s first movie as director, is going to an overconfident sleaze noir. Those credits in a Galleria font, the wavy suggestive backdrop and John Barry’s sultry pay-for-your-sins music are the collective alert of a moviemaker who hasn’t any doubts about having achieved what’s about to be set before us. That’s the movie’s real pleasure—it’s pre-fab, packaged so that all the kinks have been worked out. Well, not all: the screenplay’s early sex repartee between William Hurt and Kathleen Turner is like that embarrassing fart you can’t prevent from leaking in front of others, and Turner, the 80s version of Lana Turner out of The Postman Always Rings Twice, way over-prepped. (And sometimes she looks more masculine than her co-star.) If there’s major criticism, it’s that the movie is too insistent: Kasdan, who also wrote the script, is determined to make such a lughead out of incompetent lawyer Hurt that in ways likely not intended we haven’t any response other than contempt. How do we disregard Hurt’s jogging followed immediately by a smoke? But if Hurt can convince us that he’s this estúpido, he’s done his job. (He looks very booze-bloated in his last scenes.) Plot holes here and there but these are for foofs on the prowl. Overall, the temperature of oozing noiriness—the chimes, Barry’s hot-to-trot score (with track titles like “I’m Weak” and “Kill for Pussy”), the fog, Turner’s bathtub, Hurt’s back, Kim Zimmer—may get you more heated than the sex scenes. Most of the banging is drenched in animalism; explicit is the connection between heightened urge and the illicit, implicit the link between urge and crime. Kasdan has repeatedly said he’d never do a sequel, but it’s our demand for one, so Hurt can track Turner down, that becomes the movie’s most lasting refrain. It’ll be Kasdan’s when he needs a hit to revive his career. Better hurry up: about all that’s left of Turner’s sultriness is her voice. With Mickey Rourke, Richard Crenna and Ted Danson, who comes close to stealing the show.


Text COPYRIGHT © 2001 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.