Given the success of last year’s brilliant Gone Girl there is no better time to re-visit John Dahl’s noirish thriller The Last Seduction. Because, like Gone Girl, it tells the story of a disenchanted wife looking to use her intellect, wiles and cunning to get what she wants. Similarly like last year’s Nightcrawler The Last Seduction is not your typical Hollywood fair; the protagonist is not always likeable, she has no particular arc of note but instead we get to watch a deeply fascinating female character go about her business with the guile of a snake and looks that can melt a man to pulp all the while wondering; will she get away with it?
Having convinced her useless husband Clay (Bill Pullman) to sell prescription drugs to local hoods Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) decides she’s had enough of him, takes the money and runs. But, discovering that if she spends the money Clay will be entitled to half of anything, she soon finds her plans shot to pieces. So settling down in a small town outside of Buffalo she hooks in the attention of down-on-himself insurance adjuster Mike (Peter Berg) and starts to formulate a new plan, while getting some sexual satisfaction, but knowing Clay is hot on her heels.
Released in the era which saw Sharon Stone at the height of her erotic thriller powers The Last Seduction still holds weight watching it twenty years after its original release. Because the genius behind Steve Barancik’s script is to never allow Bridget to become anything close to resembling a potential psychopath. Sociopathic, sure, but there’s a femme fatale charm to her which resonates throughout the film. She’s more con-woman than cold-hearted killer. And, by the end, you realise she’s just a woman looking to get her own way by bending men to her will.
Dahl embraces the noirish nature of the film, a sense of Billy Wilder gone a little mad, by keeping a playful, seedy jazz score constantly tinkering away in the background. Wilder is a good reference point here, that ability to mix character driven thrills with a wonderfully and perfectly pitched level of dark comedy. Because Bridget isn’t a bad girl per say, she doesn’t actually commit any major felony but loves “bending the rules, playing with peoples’ brains”. And that’s the kicker, because while Bridget toys with all she encounters we get to revel in her moral ambiguity, that witnessing others do bad things is cathartic as we play by the rules.
Berg gives a solid turn as the slack-jawed Mike. He’s the closest thing to a good guy there is but Berg manages to give him just enough wet-behind-the-ears in spite of his swagger to make you quietly hope he comes a cropper. Pullman meanwhile is on fine form as Clay, his seedy ways make him the perfect foil for Bridget and perhaps the only man able to keep up with her breakneck speed of a brain.
But the real standout here is Fiorentino. Giving a career best performance her Bridget is brilliantly dry, acidic and always able to turn on the puppy-dog eyes to gently caress a man’s ego. There’s a sexuality to her performance that ignites the screen while never overplaying her as just a set of legs. Instead it’s like watching a grand chess master position her pieces against multiple opponents before striking a killer move. Due to the film making its debut on cable TV across the pond Fiorentino was not eligible for an Oscar nomination which is a pity as this really is a staggering, all encompassing performance.
If you like your thrillers smart, sassy and bleakly funny than The Last Seduction will lure you into its mesmerising trap.