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Part of me is not sure if I can be allowed to like the slick, sick, and twisted sex-crime-thriller Wild Things (rated R, and for once I’ll emphasize that this is for good reason). But why not? Another part of me – the slick, sick, and twisted part – likes it.

And I’m sure that people will either like Wild Things or despise it. No middle ground. They’ll think it’s awful.

In a rich Miami suburb where everyone knows each other – and almost everyone sleeps with each other – well-bred high schooler Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards of Starship Troopers) carries a torch for her school counselor Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) – who, by the way, once had an affair with her mother Sandra (Theresa Russell). Kelly makes sure he knows she’s interested in him, but something happens…

…and suddenly Kelly and another girl, Suzy (Neve Campbell), publicly accuse Lombardo of rape, and Sandra takes him to court. The girls describe what happened in shockingly similar detail – similar enough to make Det. Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) think they’re lying. Which, we learn a few plot twists down the road, they are…but, as we also learn, with the full cooperation of alleged predator Lombardo.

I told you this would be a tough film to like. Because then it gets really complicated…

The biggest reasons I have for liking Wild Things? I can’t say; either I’d give away key things to watch for, or you’ll see me for the twisted bastard that I am.*

Be warned that Wild Things is a tough film to love, a story of fights and lies and deceit that probably has a dozen plot twists too many, plus kinky sex between young adults. This is not a teen film, despite its nubile cast. (And one might be uncomfortable about the choice of director John McNaughton, who made the controversial Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer; he’s probably old enough to be the father of Campbell or Richards, and when he films these young women in leering, sexy close-up and slow-motion, the sick Oingo Boingo song “Little Girls” – “Iiiii-i-i love little girls, they make me feel so good” – might play in your head.)

The film is insane, at times almost goofy, and certainly not for the prudish. Bill Murray adds to the insanity as an ambulance-chasing cheat of a lawyer, and ’60s icon Robert Wagner can be funny just standing in front of the camera.

The music by George S. Clinton – of Mortal Kombat and the very cool score to Austin Powers – tips you off to some of the manipulation. An almost ironic music rhythm plays when Kelly shows Sam she’s, um, available and willing to sleep with him…and plays again when she tearfully claims that he raped her.

Either you will really get into this kinkiness or you’ll wish you avoided it altogether. So I liked it, but I’m not sure I can recommend it. Just remember: it’s only a movie.



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* 2009 note: I have since realized how amazing it is I got away with saying this sentence in a family newspaper. I think my publisher Claudia wasn’t actually reading my reviews yet.