There have been some pretty hard women featured in films over the years. About the hardest one recently was Kathy Bates’ character in “Misery.”
She so reveled in torturing James Caan that you suspected she once might have been married to him.
But Bates’ character is of a certain type: Sturdy, religious, uncompromising and totally devoid of sexual allure. She might force you to do something, or even trick you. Seduction, however, is not among her repertoire of weapons.
That is the province belonging to traditional beauties such as Lana Turner and Barbara Stanwyck, Jessica Lange and Kathleen Turner. And, now, Linda Fiorentino.
As the ruthless protagonist in John Dahl’s new film “The Last Seduction,” Fiorentino creates such an irresistibly self-obsessive force that she’s even been named by some critics as Best Actress of 1994 (she doesn’t qualify for Academy Award honors because Dahl’s film was first shown on the cable television network HBO).
Fiorentino portrays Bridget, the wife of a bargain-basement physician named Clay (Bill Pullman) who doubles as a free-lance drug pusher. When Clay scores big, allowing him to pay off a debt to some finger-breaking loan sharks, he figures he has it made.
But he makes a mistake. In his enthusiasm, he hits Bridget. Uh-oh.
Before long, Bridget is gone. And so is the $700,000 that Clay so desperately needs.
But that’s only the beginning. Bridget, heeding the advice of her sleazy-if-understanding lawyer (dependable J.T. Walsh), decides to hole up and hide out for a while. Enter impressionable Mike (Peter Berg), the nice guy foil for Bridget’s predatory intentions.
He wants sex: She’s got more than he can handle.
He wants a relationship: She can play that game.
He wants to know more about her: She can create a past as quickly as most parents can rattle off their kids’ birthdays.
Pretty soon, Bridget is able to convince Mike to do her bidding. And when Clay gets close to her trail, her bidding inevitably includes murder.
Fiorentino’s character is a marvel; she boasts not a single redeeming virtue. She can convince a man to expose himself and then kill him before the zipper’s echo fades. She can kiss and kill with gusto. In her spare time, she’ll spit a grandma’s pie back into the pan and then mash out a cigarette in the remains.
As an actress, Fiorentino’s career has been spotty. She’s been seen in supporting roles in a handful of films, from “Vision Quest” to “The Moderns.” Here, she gets a chance to chew some scenery and makes the most of it.
Fittingly, her chance comes in a Dahl film. His previous efforts, “Kill Me Again” and “Red Rock West,” both featured femme fatale roles for such lesser actresses as Joanna Whalley-Kilmer and Lara Flynn Boyle.
Dahl, whose film-noir sentiments typically are limited by scripts that either are second rate or simply can’t maintain the energy of their overly complex plots, borrows too much from “Body Heat” here. He benefits from all his actors’ performances, especially Pullman and Berg, but we’ve seen this story before.
Nothing, however, not even Kathleen Turner, could prepare us for Fiorentino’s Bridget. Without apology, she’s a pure witch on wheels.
xxxx 1. “The Last Seduction” *** Location: Lyons Ave. Cinemas Cast: Directed by John Dahl, starring Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, William Pullman Running time: 1:50 minutes Rating: R
2. Other views Here’s what other critics say about “The Last Seduction:”
Joe Baltake/McClatchy News Service: This positively amoral, gleefully mean-spirited movie, much like its cold, ruthless, anti-heroine, never lets up.
Carrie Rickey/Philadelphia Inquirer: In “The Last Seduction,” a viciously funny sexual thriller, Fiorentino is that sultriest of cannibals, the man-eater. She is so unrepentant it’s exhilarating. Likewise the movie.
Henry Sheehan/Orange County Register: … the most wildly entertaining neo-noir genre workout to come down the pike in a long time.
Bob Strauss/Los Angeles Daily News: Like director John Dahl’s last release, “Red Rock West,” “Seduction” has already played on cable TV. “Seduction” deserved a better fate. It’s light years more entertaining than most studios’ wide releases.