Body Heat (1981)
Turner has so much Heat it Hurts
I'm really disappointed in you, Racine. I've been living vicariously off of you for years. You shut up on me now, all I have is my wife - Peter
Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat" starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner is very much a homage to film noir, with it's roots firmly set in the now classics from the 40s and 50s and like so many others feeling not too unlike Billy Wilder's masterpiece "Double Indemnity". Yet it merges it with the contemporary, or at least a 1980's contemporary, giving it a sexy sultry feel which in many ways sparked a new wave of sexy movies all drawing on film noir in one way or another.
In the midst of a scorching heat wave, seedy, womanizing lawyer Ned Racine (William Hurt - The Incredible Hulk) finds himself bewitched by Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner - Marley & Me) a stunningly beautiful woman he bumps into one night. When they meet again they start a passionate affair which they keep hidden from everyone especially from Matty's rich husband Edmund (Richard Crenna). As things progress they devise a plan to bump off Edmund so that they not only can make their love for each other public but also inherit Edmund's vast wealth.
First and foremost "Body Heat" is a beautifully stylish movie with a storyline, palette, characters, soundtrack and cinematography which embodies much of what film noir was about. It's a joy to watch, even now 30 years after its release and seems almost timeless. But although it's wonderful to watch there is one issue and that is the storyline which as already mentioned is in itself a homage to film noir. The trouble is that once the set up is done and we become acquainted with womanizing Ned Racine and the sexy Matty Walker you can very much guess where the whole thing will lead, or at least you can if you are acquainted with the whole film noir set up. As such "Body Heat" does at times feel a little obvious as if you know the ending long before we arrive there, although with plenty of twists causing a few doubts it's a pleasant ride from beginning to end.
But it's not all about the film noir when it comes to "Body Heat" and there is a sexy side of things with various sex scenes and fleeting moments of nudity. Combined with the heat of Miami it gives it a steamy side of sexual intrigue such as the bath scene or the sex in the boat house. But whilst it is sexy and features various states of nudity in particular a topless Kathleen Turner it's not sordid never feeling like the sex has been inserted to deliver the soft porn sensation which later sexy thrillers reached for but instead it delivers intense sexual passion and brilliantly so.
What is very impressive about "Body Heat" is that whilst William Hurt had appeared in 3 movies this was Kathleen Turner's first movie and what a pairing them make. Hurt is spot on as the womanizing, seedy lawyer Ned Racine stuck presenting basically low life's and with a mundane life only punctuated by the continual line of women he ends up bedding. Whilst Turner oozes sexuality from her entrance in a vivid white dress right through to the final moments. But it is together where it comes to life, from the almost comical flirting heavy in sexual innuendo through to their various sex scenes together they set the screen a light with sizzling sexual chemistry. It all feels so natural, they look and act comfortably around each other not just in the sex scenes but in others such as in a lawyer's office and it is that which brings things to life.
Turner and Hurt are not alone and "Body Heat" doesn't suffer from the supporting performances from Richard Crenna as Matty's husband Edmund through to Ted Danson as Peter Lowenstein a lawyer friend of Ned's. The characters are spot on, believable and adding to the whole sense of film noir. Even Mickey Rourke shows up and delivers a fine performance in an early bit part.
What this all boils down to is that "Body Heat" is a glorious attempt to combine classy film noir with a more contemporary sexual feeling. It does suffer from a bit of predictability and it's not hard to guess where the storyline will lead but other wise from the whole styling, the characters, performances and even the sex scenes it's all incredibly good. It is very much down to the chemistry between Kathleen Turner and William Hurt that it all comes together so brilliantly and in many ways ushered in a new wave of sexy thrillers that would attempt to match what it delivered.
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