Wild Things - * *

Wild Things is a movie that prides itself on its deviations, both from sexual norms as well as a plot as we know it. This thriller is overflowing with sex, violence, twisting relationships, and double-crosses to the point that it becomes a mere parody of itself and loses any lasting impact.

Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) is the guidance counselor at the high school in the rich Florida yachting town of Blue Bay. He is beloved by most of the students, until one of them, rich girl Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) accuses him of rape.

Two cops, Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and Gloria Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) are assigned the case. Kelly’s mother, Sandra (Theresa Russell), who has had her own relationship with Sam in the past, is out for blood, bringing in lawyer Tom Baxter (Robert Wagner) to ruin Sam’s life and career. She also uses her considerable influence to pressure Ray and Gloria to find Sam guilty.

Ray, however, seeks for the truth in an unlikely place. A white trash girl, Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell), with whom Ray has tangled in the past, may hold the key to Sam’s guilt or innocence. But are her motives pure?

There are so many twists, turns, and double-crosses in Wild Things that the movie becomes unintentionally hilarious. It reminded me of the cartoon in which predator and prey keep unzipping their costumes, reversing the situation ad infinitum. The audience can only take so much of this before abandoning the suspension of disbelief and any sense of seriousness about the film. Then again, any movie which stages a crucial courtroom showdown with Bill Murray as one of the attorneys doesn’t take itself all that seriously.

The film is chock full of predators (a fact which the film hammers in with repeated gator sightings in the Florida swamps). Each character, though, is a predator, and (like in the aforementioned cartoon) it is up to the audience to determine who is the prey. This gives nearly every main character a chance to play both the good guy and the bad guy, so, while the audience may get lost, the actors sure look like they’re having a good time.

Still, the film would have been better if it declared its intentions (without necessarily untangling its twists) as to whether it’s trying to be serious or not. The film straddles the fence on this issue, and as it stands, it is either a mistimed comedy or a poorly staged drama.

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