Owen Gleiberman
March 26, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

Wild Things

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, Bill Murray
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a B

In Wild Things, a tricky-bordering-on-gimmicky film noir with a glaze of soft-core kink, Neve Campbell, who glided through The Craft and the two Screams with such unfussy finesse that she threatened to disappear on screen, makes a far punchier impact in what might be described as the Fairuza Balk role. She?s Suzie, a grunged-out, bad-dye-job, druggie-dysfunctional rebel loser who lives in a dilapidated trailer behind her parents? home on the wrong side of Blue Bay, a posh South Florida yachting resort. Denise Richards, from Starship Troopers, is Suzie?s spoiled-rich-girl rival, Kelly, an heiress with the pouty lips of a party doll and an attitude of brazen do-me recklessness that leads her to compete with her bored-slut mother (Theresa Russell). The two girls are united when both accuse a high school guidance counselor, Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), of rape. Sam enjoys a reputation as a dockside stud, but early on, the hot-to-trot Kelly, clad in one of a series of soaked-to-the-skin outfits, just about rapes him. That?s enough to let you know that there?s more to this trio than meets the eye.

Who?s plotting, and sleeping, with whom? The fun of Wild Things is that here, as in the 1990 Curtis Hanson thriller Bad Influence (or the more recent Bound), the casual acceptance of bisexuality expands the movie formally, multiplying the possibilities for collusion and double cross. The director, John Mc- Naughton, throws in one too many symbolic shots of alligators (they?re predators?get it?), but he achieves a sweat-and-champagne atmosphere that sucks you right in.

Dillon, who still has his baby-faced adolescent creaminess, gives an amusing performance as a sweetheart lady- killer who acts just dim enough to leave you wondering if he?s smarter than he looks. Kevin Bacon, as a wily cop, parades his rotting charm with gusto, and he?s featured in a moment of full-frontal nudity that seems gratuitously daring for a studio thriller. It left me wondering why the film didn?t go further with its bisexual implications?as if such activities are encouraged only when they involve babelicious lesbians. Wild Things isn?t nearly as wild as it pretends to be, but it does prove that a little erotic nastiness always looks good, especially on the most unblemished of stars.

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