Saturday, 9 November 2013

Body Heat (1981)

Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, with no small amount of debt owed to the classic Double Indemnity, Body Heat is a slick, sexy, sweaty thriller that benefits greatly from the central performances, not least that of Kathleen Turner making an astonishing big-screen debut.

William Hurt plays a lawyer, Ned Racine, who falls for the gorgeous Matty Walker (Turner) during a stiflingly hot Florida Summer. The two begin a steamy affair, which then leads them to start thinking about how to deal with the oft-absent Mr. Walker (Richard Crenna). It's not long until murder is mentioned, with Ned clearly making decisions based on his libido as opposed to common sense, and Matty starts to show her ingenuity as the plan is put into effect.

With decent, unfussy, direction and a fine script, Lawrence Kasdan certainly puts all of the pieces in place to make Body Heat an easy movie to enjoy, but his biggest coup was with the casting of the main roles. Hurt has always been a very good actor, and he's as good here as he's ever been, but none of the twists and turns would be believable if he wasn't jumping through hoops to be with Kathleen Turner. Because I can't think of many men who wouldn't jump through hoops to be with Kathleen Turner in the early '80s. The lady dominates the movie, even when she's not onscreen, but that doesn't stop viewers also getting great performances from Crenna, Ted Danson (in what remains one of his best roles), J. A. Preston and a youthful Mickey Rourke. There's also Kim Zimmer, who manages to make a good impression despite only being onscreen for about a minute.

It may not be quite as clever as it wants to be, and certainly stretches plausibility on numerous occasions, but there's always something going on in every scene to entertain and distract from the plot holes. While this isn't on a par with the very best classic or neo-noirs, it still deserves to be allotted a place near the top tier. And Matty Walker is a character who ranks as one of the most memorable, for a mixture of right and wrong reasons.


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