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Wild Things Review

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A rich girl accuses the school guidance councillor of rape, but all is not as it seems.

★★★★★

This self-consciously nouveau noir thriller quite fancies itself. It opens with fast aerial footage of the Everglades intercut with ominous-looking alligators - an area of great natural beauty with danger lurking beneath its seemingly picturesque surface, geddit? Blue Bay High School seems to have a stringent entry policy: statuesque boys and bosomy girls only. From the word go, hormones are in the air, and hunky "guidance counsellor" Sam Lombardo (Dillon) is obviously the object of more than one schoolgirl crush.

Rich pompom girl Kelly Van Ryan (Starship Troopers' Richards) offers to wash his jeep, and a soap-sud come-on sequence follows - part Cool Hand Luke, part Wrigley's advert. The result: Sam allegedly rapes Kelly. Cue: Grishamesque courtroom drama, with seedy lawyer Bowden (Bill Murray) the only guy who'll take Sam's case (Kelly's mother is the rich and powerful Theresa Russell, her lawyer Robert Wagner). Throw in an over-zealous cop (Bacon), his sultry partner Daphne Rubin-Vega and the star witness, "swamp trash" Gothette Suzie (Campbell) and the pot's ready to boil over with intrigue, subterfuge and sexual tension. But the main ingredient is herring, served red.

With the court case apparently solved at the film's halfway mark, you may be sure nothing is as it seems, but screenwriter Stephen Peters (Death Wish 5) becomes so delighted with the power of an unexpected twist, the remaining 55 minutes amount to little more than an endless string of them. Granted, about three are genuinely surprising, but as double-cross becomes triple-cross becomes quadruple cross, it all gets awfully trying. And the script clangs along like a sack of bells, and even resorts to Carry On-style innuendo.

Only Campbell and Murray shine from the cast. Director McNaughton layers on flashy, Angel Heart colour-filters as if to compensate for his cheapo earlier work (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, mainly), and the much-hyped steamy sex is made ludicrous by Campbell's no-nudity clause - Bacon's pork sword alone is not worth the price of admission.

A thriller that is pure schlock - and a guilty pleasure for many people for exactly that reason.