As I mentioned the other day, I have nearly 1000 movies in my combined Netflix queue. Lots and lots and lots of movies. Some movies queued up are films I’ve already seen and want to watch again eventually, but the vast majority are films I’ve never seen before. There are just so many movies from throughout history, and while I’ve seen more than your average jane or joe, I still haven’t even made it through a small percentage of the great stuff that’s out there.
That’s one reason why I love iCheckMovies, which I’ve written about before (you should join and be my friend if you haven’t already!). Thanks to my desire to make progress on various lists accumulated on iCheckMovies, I watch films that normally wouldn’t have been on my radar. For example, I recently watch Body Heat for the first time because I am getting close to completing the AFI list, ‘100 Years, 100 Thrills!‘ I wouldn’t have just added Body Heat to my queue normally, because the title just makes me think of a made for Cinemax soft-porn film. However, thanks to AFI and iCheckMovies, I got to enjoy a really great film that would have otherwise gone unappreciated by me.
Body Heat is a neo-noir homage to Double Indemnity and Out of the Past. I love that Noir is one of those genres where people have consistently made homages without tipping into parody. Too often, the only way people know how to reference something at a feature length level is with straight remake/reboot or comedic reinterpretation. With Noir, filmmakers have consistently made films that capture the spirit, the themes, and the visual flair of the genre, without merely remaking the same film over and over. Chinatown, Brick, even Blade Runner are all examples of this. Well, add Body Heat to that list for me (and lots of other people, I’m not discovering anything new here outside of my own little movie-watching world).
The story follows a small-time Florida defense lawyer, a serial womanizer, who meets a rich, beautiful, married woman one night during an oppressive heat wave (Kathleen Turner in her first film role, catapulting her the height of ‘sex symbol’ status). As one would expect in a Noir film, the two begin sleeping together. The affair and the heat wave are equally torrid. The weather is hot, the sex is hotter, husbands are in the way, schemes are hatched, people are betrayed… in the words of George Michael Bluth, “What a fun, sexy time for you.”
The film is taut, well-acted, sexy, and really smart. Many times, when I watch a crime thriller of any kind, I get frustrated that the characters involved are so stupid for the sake of the plot. It’s that classic movie trope, most famous in horror films, in which the characters do some inexplicably stupid thing that no one would ever do, but they do it anyway because it is necessary for the story to make sense (or at least pretend to make sense). It makes me wonder if most writers are just really, really lazy. If I’m watching a movie and I have a better idea of how to get out of trouble in a certain moment, then I know it probably occurred to the writer, too. They just ignore that impulse for the sake of narrative convenience. Watching Body Heat, there were several moments where I thought, “Oh, he should do this right now, that would be smart.” Then, whaddya know, he does exactly that! For a crime thriller to be truly satisfying, the characters need to get away with it because they were just that smart, or they need to get caught even though they were smart enough to get away with it, but something goes wrong because of a fatal flaw, or betrayal, or bad luck. Body Heat is like one of those options, but I won’t tell you which because that would be spoiling it for you.
William Hurt and Kathleen Turner are both great, and there are also awesome supporting performances by Ted Danson (playing the uncharacteristically normal guy who isn’t super sexy) and Mickey Rourke (playing the hot young criminal, because that was his ‘thing’ back then).
If you’re ever in the mood for a well-crafted, sexy, neo-noir thriller, you should check this out.