“Wild Things” is swamp soap, slippery and sexy, and it’s likely to clean up with a sizable section of young viewers. A steamy, campy thriller starring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon and Neve Campbell and pulsating with a seductive performance from relative newcomer Denise Richards, this release should win the approval of all who prefer dramas to resemble wet T-shirt contests.
This Blue Bay, Fla.-set boiler may be figuratively dubbed “bay of the vamps.” With its story docked in this tony, upper-crust enclave, the narrative gyrates around the kind of rich decadence one usually associates with West Palm Beach, with bored blondes taking trumpets to bed.
In this sizzling scenario, the bored blonde is Sandra Van Ryan (Theresa Russell), a sultry sexpot whose husband has done himself in and whose precocious daughter Kelly (Richards) is on the prowl for a daddy figure. Kelly has her coquettish eye on her rock-solid high-school guidance counselor, Sam Lombardo (Dillon), who has a reputation for womanizing.
Outfitted in the hottest topical storywear, sexual harassment, “Wild Things” is a juicy plot teaser, heaving its way through enough twists and reversals to fill six seasons of a TV soap. Its characters are a combustible lot, including Campbell as Suzie, a drug-addled trasher who also looks to the good guidance counselor for advice. Screenwriter Stephen Peters has also steamed it up with some standard staples of the genre, caste/ class rivalry and wicked anti-establishment slants that will appeal to viewers of all shapes and forms.
Admittedly, Peters pops “Wild Things” over the top with swamp camp, dicing it with straight-faced nonsense that is a satire of the genre itself. Similarly, director John McNaughton’s grip is a bawdy mix of suspense, sex and silliness, all served up with a huge tongue sticking in his cheek.
It’s a foamy mix, topped off by highly charged performances. As the beleaguered bedder, Dillon is well-cast as the authority figure from the wrong side of the tracks who is at once powerful and powerless in this decadent little world. Bacon is similarly well chosen to play a driven lawman who finds his wings clipped by the local power authorities, while Campbell strings out a complex performance as a cunning druggie. It’s Richards, however, whose sizzle makes things boil. As the sultry, rich bitch, she’s deliciously deadly.
Supporting performances are high-camp hilarious. As a sleazy, ambulance-chasing lawyer, Bill Murray is at his insincere, cerebral best, while Russell is the crunchiest snapper in this amoral swamp. Give the best parking spot at the club to Robert Wagner who, as a starchy power-lawyer, does a sly number on his professional persona.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Wild Things” Location: East Sprague, North Division, Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls cinemas Credits: Directed by John McNaughton, starring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Theresa Russell, Denise Richards, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Robert Wagner, Bill Murray, Carrie Snodgress Running time: 1:53 Rating: R