It's a hot summer. Ned Racine is waiting for something special to happen. And when it does... He won't be ready for the consequences.
The term film noir gets thrown around a lot. Its definition consists more or less of a crime drama, emphasizing moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. The funny thing is that what are considered to be classic film noirs, the smoky low-key black and white films of the 1940ís and 50ís were not trying to be classic film noirs. At the time of their releases these films were regarded more as B-movies than the cinematic masterpieces theyíre considered today. The directors were not making these films in this style knowing what it was. It wasnít until years later that the term began popping up everywhere and filmmakers began consciously using film noir elements in their pictures. Once filmmakers started setting out from the get-go to make films in this genre they turned out not so good. Exaggerated acting, poor lighting, and ridiculous dialogue plagued these films, turning them into B-movies. See the irony here?
So it is with each film that is considered to hold noir elements that I approach in a certain manner. Will the sexual innuendo laced dialogue make me cringe? And why the hell is everyone wearing fedoras? Body Heat does feature sexual innuendo laced dialogue as well as a fedora, but fortunately this is a good thing, a very good thing.
Weíre introduced to Ned Racine (William Hurt), a sleazy lawyer that doesnít leave his sleaze at work. Ned is a great anti-protagonist, heís not a villain, just much more human than most golden protagonists out there. Heís a ladiesí man, but itís obvious that heís becoming bored of various one-night stands. Enter Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), the femme fatale who might as well have sexy as her maiden name. Smoking a cigarette in a tight white outfit as the warm wind blows through her hair, Ned has entered the spiderís web.
Matty does not make it easy for Ned, but this doesnít faze him. He finally has a challenge. The married Matty eventually invites Ned to her house, but after being there for a short amount of time, asks him to leave. Ned obeys, but not for very long. In one of the most emotionally charged scenes in the movie Ned, not being able to control himself, uses a chair to shatter a window that he then climbs through. He grabs Matty as they begin to make love, and itís most certainly not the type your parents make.
Ned is in deep, sneaking over to her house whenever her rich powerful husband is away. Did I fail to mention that? Yes, Mr. Walker is very well off, and Ned and Matty decide to kill him, get his money, and live happily ever after. Of course these actions are easier said than done. Ned begins lying more and more to his friends, as he gets deeper and deeper with Matty. Their rendezvousí become more and more risky. Is Matty just corrupting the naÔve, and dim-witted Ned, simply using him to get what she wants? Iím not going to ruin the last third of the film, but needless to say itís a real doozy. The plot twists and turns, and the stakes get higher and higher. I squirmed relentlessly during the final act.
All praise goes to Lawrence Kasdan. Before this film the man had only written screenplays, although those films happened to be The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. With Body Heat he was able to step out of the shadow of Spielberg and Lucas and write and direct this intensely mature title. Kasdan is aware heís making a film with noir elements and does so gracefully. The dialogue shared between Ned and Matty before they get intimate is just as sexy as when they do end up in the bedroom. Where as most of the time dialogue such as this comes off as cheesy, unrealistic, and laughable, Kasdanís wordplay is more modern, allowing it to be fun and believable. Of course Hurt and Turner deliver the lines with true acting bravado and on-screen chemistry.
The whole film looks absolutely beautiful. Cinematographer Richard H. Kline makes you sweat it out as much as everyone else on film. Did I forget to mention that the Florida town the film takes place in is experiencing a sweltering heat wave? Even without the heat wave, the two bodies of Hurt and Turner would still be covered in sweat thanks to some of the sexiest love scenes in cinema history. The two bodies glisten in the orange light as things gets seriously heated. Kasdan doesnít get especially graphic; instead he lets the passion of the two characters envelope the screen as the camera slowly passes by. The scenes are done with class, and are actually sexy.
A young boyish Mickey Rourke shows up half way into the film and proves why he was at that time hyped as the next Brando/De Niro. He really makes you wish heíd stick around a lot longer. Speaking of young boyish men, Ted Danson appears in only his second film appearance as a lawyer, and Nedís best friend.
The film is a sexy treat, and really, how many of those are there out there? Itís a potboiler that uses the best elements of film noir to flesh real characters and tell a great story. Get ready to sweat, squirm, and grip your seat.