Bad Judgement, Bad Habits and Bad Boy Rob Lowe
When it comes to early 90's thrillers "Bad Influence" starring Rob Lowe and James Spader is as stereotypical as they come. High on visuality with its moody lighting and heavy shadows, smattered with sex scenes and a soundtrack heavy on sax music which was once the order of the day. But whilst visually appealing "Bad Influence" is sadly not the greatest of thrillers as it takes an age to get going and then seems to be going nowhere for much of it's duration.
Michael Boll (James Spader - Wall Street) is a successful marketing analyst who not only has a stylish apartment but is engaged to a beautiful woman and is climbing the corporate ladder at a rate of knots. When Michael encounters Alex (Rob Lowe - About Last Night...) a handsome drifter who lives life to the full, he becomes mesmerised by this charismatic and unpredictable stranger. But the more Michael gets to know Alex, the more his life spirals out of control to dangerous levels.
In a strange twist of fate when "Bad Influence" was released it was not the actual movie which lead to it being a surprising hit, but the fact it was released not long after it's star Rob Lowe hit the headlines when video footage of him bedding two women, one of which was an under age girl, appeared. And in a strange coincidence there is a scene in "Bad Influence" which sees Rob Lowe's character bedding two women.
Despite the Rob Lowe sex tape controversy and the occasional semi erotic sex scene "Bad Influence" is really not an erotic thriller, rather one which tries to be an adult movie with a clever storyline. Unfortunately whilst certainly being a thriller more suited to those not concerned about cheap titillation "Bad Influence" just doesn't quite have the excitement, the intensity or the tension you would want from a thriller. The idea of the movie is good with one man's life spiralling out of control thanks to the manipulation of his new friend, but the delivery just doesn't reach the heights of drama to really work. This is partly down to the fact that it spends too long floating around as Alex basically takes control of Michael. By the time the real drama arrives "Bad Influence" is for the most over and whilst the element works it needed to take up more of the movie.
But whilst "Bad Influence" may not be the greatest thriller when it comes to the delivery of the actual storyline there is no doubt it is very stylish in a 90's way. It is full of mood lighting, shadows and all those elements which were used in the early 90's to make a movie appear to be classy as well as dark and mysterious. It actually works well and the modern apartment that Michael lives in works well in a sort of Hitchcockian sort of way as the principle location.
As for "Bad Influence" supposed erotic nature, well other than a couple of slightly dodgy video's that appear and the brief yet explicit sex scene which sees Alex bedding two women there is little to really lay claim to being a highly charged erotic, sexy thriller.
Performance wise well whilst James Spader is good as Michael the slightly wimpy marketing analyst it's very much the same sort of role which Spader played in many movies early on in his career, to the point that the character feels like a continuation of a character he has played elsewhere. Then there is Rob Lowe who almost manages to shed his teen pin up status by playing the charismatic and charming Alex. There is no doubt that Rob Lowe is good when it comes to the charming part of the movie but there is something missing when it comes to the really bad boy part, he just doesn't quite cut the mustard when it comes to being believable as a clever manipulator of people.
What this all boils down to is that "Bad Influence" is by no means a terrible movie, just one which is very stereotypical of the early 90s when it comes to thrillers. It's full of moody stylization and heavy with the sound of sax but the focus of the storyline seems slightly misplaced causing it to take an age before the real drama happens. As for being erotic, well it's not really that erotic and not enough to capture the attention of those looking for cheap titillation. It for me is a case of a movie which prospered from the controversy of the Rob Lowe sex tapes which helped to raise its profile.