David Cronenberg’s examination of automobile-eroticism is a failed experiment. James Spader stars as James Ballard, a jaded Hollywood producer who is bored with life and spends his time comparing extramarital affairs with his jaded wife, Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger). One night he gets into a head-on car crash with Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), killing Dr. Remington’s husband. However, the moment is the most sexually exciting moment of their lives. Soon, he and Helen are drawn into the world of car crash fetishists, led by the mysterious Vaughan (Elias Koteas), a performance artist who stages reenactments of fatal celebrity car crashes. And throughout the film theres plenty of sex. Lots and lots of sex, actually. The film exhausts nearly every possible combination of sexual partners available to it. And all of this is amid the object of the fetishism: cars and the aftermath of their collisions. There’s chrome, twisted metal, scars, scabs, bruises and wounds. Lots of them, actually. So much that the storyline gets buried at points. The film is as obsessed with its subject as its characters are with car crashes, but it never figures out a way to transfer that obsession to the audience. Rather than show us why these people are obsessed, the film merely concentrates on their obsession: the gruesome aftermath of car crashes. As a result, watching the umpteenth sex scene in a car seems pointless and overly familiar. To top it off, much of the film is in rather bad taste. The film is alternately compelling and repulsive…but repulsion wins the day.
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