Bad Influence (1990)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Cowardly stockbroker Michael (Spader) grows a set of balls after he meets suave devil Alex (Lowe). The fly guy takes Mike under his wing and teaches him how to stand up for myself, get sloshed, bed women and do lots of cocaine. What Michael doesn’t know is that Alex is about to push too far. Sounds like my weekend! YIPPEE!
Alex: You won't kill me.
Michael: Why not?
Alex: Because I haven't taught you that yet.
"Bad Influence" is one of those movies that always managed to sway me with its gleeful display of decadence. Now, I don’t know if this was purposeful or not, but I always saw this flick as more than just a simple "baddie on the loose" thriller. Every time I watch this sucka, I can’t help but believe that it's truly a metaphor for Satan, his playpen and his corruption of man.
Unscrupulous and imminently evil GQ dude (Lowe) takes a weak, earnest duder (Spader) and seduces him into a world of various delicious sins. Flesh, drugs, booze, crime and unethical courses of action are tossed his way and he loves it…until it goes too far. Sounds like Lucifer at play to me! Of course, hell doesn’t always look like hell, on a good day; it looks a lot like planet Earth and what better place to communicate this world of temptation than through the late 80’s/early 90’s environment. The film successfully managed to milk the seduction and superficiality of that world and then some. Shite, they weren’t kidding when they said that the whole yuppie lifestyle was axed on hedonism at its purest. Ahhh the good old days!
For most of its running time, "Bad Influence" had me by the nose candy with Lowe being the highlight of the show. He’s at his most charming/menacing here and his baby boy looks have never been put to better use. The relationship between the two male leads was also very interesting from the get-go with Lowe saying “jump” and Spader consistently replying “how high?” But the sexual tension between them also helped make the already charged dynamic even more fascinating, while complementing my “Satan” theory. Yeah, you heard me…SEXUAL TENSION! The devil is, after all, an asexual being, so the subtle physical/psychological attraction between the men made sense and complemented the metaphor.
The flick itself went on to constantly talk dirty to me with its kitsch, yet noir visuals, its snazzy night clubs, its shameless tramps and its engaging chain of events that went from circumstantially funny in their bleakness to unapologetically brutal. All that with competent directing backing it all up! FUCK YEAH! For example, without giving anything away, the scene where Alex left a “message” to Michael via video tape had to be the best scene in the film in regards to mixing shock and sick laughs while displaying gnarly editing and "money" directing choices. What a well constructed scene! It tapped into everything all at once and pulled it off.
Now for the bad snort: at the one hour mark, this film kind of lost its edge. First off, it tossed some loser pothead brother into the mix and he grated me. NOTE ON POTHEAD: I didn’t buy that actor as a pothead...a virgin maybe...a pothead...no freaking way! Secondly, having taken the time to build up quite a twisted scenario, the flick concluded it all way too soon and in an overly easy fashion. Although I respect the fact that the finale played it grounded, not hopping on the usual “thriller” train by serving ludicrous “bonus” twists, I still felt hungry once the credits rolled. The narrative was nasty for most of the ride, escalating in bold fashion as the clock moved forward, but then it dropped the spiked ball for its last 15 minutes. I believe it could’ve gotten nastier.
Overall, "Bad Influence" was a fast-paced and charismatic thriller which presented me with a wooing chain of happenings that slapped a smile on my cherry pie more than once. Toss in there a threesome (with two bi-girls no less), some really clever lines and a polished Bret Easton Ellis type vibe and you get a fun ride in the decadence convertible. Let’s turn on the video cam and gang-bang some ladies!
We get an after-the-fact bashed in head and blood here and there. Not much of the red stuff.
Rob Lowe (Alex) owned this show as the charismatic and evil entity. The man was the definition of kool and the various phony accents he adopted throughout the film freakin' killed me! James Spader (Michael) didn’t play an a-hole for once and managed to communicate the vulnerability and imminent strength of his character like a champ. Lisa Zane (Claire) just looked really good naked. That’s enough for me. Billy, can I get a crack at her? Oh…COME ON!
T & A
The movie starts off on the right “zing” with a naked chick on a bed; we also get some Lisa Zane nude action via a videotape and lots of hot broads in many forms of undress. The ladies will be happy to know that both Spader and Lowe go shirtless while Lowe gives his fans a bonus…yes…the Lowe butt shot.
In my opinion, Hanson’s directing was undermined by the film’s awesome set designs. Hanson was never too flashy and his presence didn’t really stand out apart from the well put together “message” scene. He did love those “blinds” shadow lighting shots though…it’s not a film noir without “blinds shadow lighting”. Decent show, Sir Hanson!
Aaaaahhh, the 80’s...you gotta love them! The music here is very varied, the score has the synthesizer thang going and the tunes go from 80’s pop rock, to Brazilian stuff and even a bit of blues.
Distributor: MGM Home Entertainment
IMAGE: We can watch this baby in Standard "full screen" or in Widescreen "16.9 Enhanced" mode. The image is clean, the colors solid and the stylish lighting in particular came through. NICE!
SOUND: The English Dolby Surround sound delivered with the soundtrack in particular booming like a champ. We also get a French Dolby Surround sound option and English, French, Spanish subtitle options.
EXTRAS: We get the Theatrical Trailer. This DVD is bare bones but the flick is so kool that it's worth the purchase.
"Bad Influence" is a tight, good looking cinematic gem that took me for a bumpy ride of daring twists and sick laughs. The end felt premature and a tad clumsy (kind of like my last hump), but the whole of the film made up for it. Another plus is that I learned a lot of useful tips from this movie. Like how to get out of marriage gracefully, how to beat my competition with pizzazz and more importantly, how to make some quick cash in a bunny mask. FUN TIMES! Let Rob Lowe teach you a thing or two about a thing or two.
In 1988, Rob Lowe was pinched having sex with a 17-year old girl. He had taped the ordeal and the tape wound up in the wrong hands. Involved in a scandal, Lowe did 20 hours of community service for his “crime”. In my book, it smelled like an extortion ploy.
Rob Lowe lost the part of the villain in "Titanic" to Billy Zane. He got even by having screen sex with Bill’s sister Lisa Zane in this movie. When do I get a turn?