Body of Evidence

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An art gallery owner, accused of killing her lover through excessive sex, is soon engaged in similar activity with her defence lawyer.


The subject of much derision at the time, Madonna's offering arrived on these shores having flopped across the pond, but no doubt hoping to bask in the glow of a Basic Instinct-style sexual controversy.

La Ciccone is art gallery owner Rebecca Carlson who lives on an impossibly lavish and improbably stable houseboat, and has a rich older lover with a dodgy ticker. After a bout of strenuous sex involving bondage and nipple clamps, he winds up dead from a cardiac arrest, leaving district attorney Joe Mantegna to bring in Madonna for her lover's murder, claiming she, er, fornicated him to death - "she's the murder weapon" - aided by a dash of cocaine in his nasal spray, for the $8 million she's set to inherit in his will.

With defence lawyer Willem Dafoe on her case, what follows is a courtroom drama of mounting tedium interspersed by scenes of Madonna pouring hot candle wax over Dafoe's chest and genitalia, and masturbating with Enya-like musak twinkling away in the background. "That's what I do - I fuck," she purrs at one point, just in case we don't quite get it.

The main problem here, however, is that whereas Basic Instinct - which this tries so desperately to emulate - had a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour (you always felt director Paul Verhoeven's tongue was well embedded in his cheek), Body Of Evidence takes itself far too seriously, its actors spouting Brad Mirman's stilted dialogue with the stony-faced sincerity of people wishing they were somewhere else altogether.

And while Madonna is constantly presented as a beautiful young woman of mystery, the fact is that here she looks far from young, far from beautiful and - for anyone who checked out the previous year's literary offering, Sex - very far from mysterious. Willem Dafoe, a particularly fine actor when the script takes him and sometimes when it doesn't, is here treading water, desperately out of his depth, grinning like a Cheshire cat on heat, whether he's humping his wife ("You're great when you've got a big case," she moans) or having his head stuffed into Madonna's crotch (no stand-ins here) while she's posed on the bonnet of a limo.

An erotic thriller that's strangely unerotic and devoid of thrills, this is, however, mercifully short at 100 minutes.