Welcome to our new (semi-regular) Saturday Night film club! We’ll bring the movie, you bring the beer, pizza, chocolate cake, nachos, bourbon, hot dogs, ice cream and maybe also a DVD just in case our WiFi packs up.
Me and my wife Toni (Methods Unsound’s badass Food Editor) have a weakness for one of the least auspicious genres of the last 30 years: 90s Hollywood thrillers that are high on gloss, schlock and exploitation.
We’re not talking the great overlooked gems of the era like Breakdown, Red Rock West or The Last Seduction. Nor the obvious influential classics like Seven, Usual Suspects or True Romance.
Oh no, we’re talking about the also-rans, the failures, the trash, the blatant rip-offs… the films that may have been commercial hits at the time but still took a critical pounding.
All the greats are here: Poison Ivy, Color of Night, Fear (the Mark Wahlberg/Reese Witherspoon one), Fear (the Ally Sheedy one), Final Analysis, Single White Female, The Temp, Mother’s Boys, Sliver, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and of course, the trash masterpiece of them all… Basic Instinct.
These are movies that form the spine of every streaming service you subscribe to, which we all subconsciously ignore when scrolling for the newer, cooler stuff. But then past-midnight on a Friday after a little too much wine, what would you rather watch… Reese Witherspoon being fingered on a rollercoaster which eventually leads to a teenage Mark Wahlberg being thrown out of a window or Horrible Bosses 2?
Exactly! So what do all these movies have in common? Well, lucky for you, we’ve made a list:
Crappy 90s thriller checklist
- – A plot driven by a murder-mystery
- – ‘Erotic’ sex involving some taboo element that hasn’t previously been exploited in another Hollywood film
- – A thick layer of Hollywood gloss
- – Hammy acting
- – Competent direction borrowing liberally from Hitchcock
- – Sensationalist dialogue
- – Lots of pseudo-psychology
- – Heavy-handed symbolism
- – Ridiculous houses that nobody in the real world can afford to live in
- – Ridiculous jobs that nobody in the real-world actually has (normally freelance architect, I mean I know there are obviously architects in the real world but every fucker in these films is either an architect, a surgeon or a lawyer. How many architects, surgeons or lawyers do you know?)
- – Shockingly irresponsible police work
- – Loads of rain
- – Sweeping orchestral scores, maybe with a little too much saxophone on the side
- – Forgotten character actors you’ll just about remember (Anne Archer? George Dzunda?)
- – Andy Garcia
- – Gigantic plot-holes so obvious you’ll notice straight away
- – A third-act twist, normally followed by a secondary last-minute twist
- – End credits rolling IMMEDIATELY after the villain is killed
And perhaps no other film ticks every one of these elements harder than the 1993 Madonna vehicle, Body of Evidence, which currently holds a worrying 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes…
Body of Evidence
Made in the period of Madonna’s post-Like a Prayer downswing when the woman just couldn’t put a foot right – mainly because that foot was being licked by a naked Dennis Rodman, photographed and placed inside a pornographic coffee table book – Body of Evidence doesn’t just represent the exact point where the general public decided they’d all had enough of Madonna but also the nadir of a cycle of Hollywood erotic bondage thrillers.
Madonna plays Rebecca, a sexually liberated woman accused of… well… fucking her aging lover to death. This gentleman of a certain age (and of a certain wealth) had a heart condition that Madonna allegedly took advantage of by involving him in all manner of kinky sex games until he just couldn’t take it anymore. Defending Madge is lawyer Frank Dulaney (Willem Dafoe), who crosses the professional line by embarking on a sadomasochistic affair with the alleged sex-weapon.
Then follows many extended court scenes containing some of the most unbelievable behaviour ever exhibited in a court of law punctuated by loads of rough sex and the occasional appearance from Julianne Moore looking like the lead singer of T’Pau.
Is it any good? Of course not, it’s dreadful nonsense, and for a film with so much sensationalist courtroom shenanigans and Madonna’s boobs it’s unforgivably boring at times. But, as it ticks off so many elements from the crappy 90s thriller checklist, it’s a goddamn masterpiece in our eyes.
Let’s look at the body of evid… ohhhhh… I get the title now!
A plot driven by a murder-mystery?
It all hangs on whether Madonna knew whether her old man had a heart condition before boning the life out of the guy AND whether Madonna was aware that she stood to inherit $8 million upon his death.
Perhaps the most hilarious thing about Body of Evidence is how much of it is a blatant Basic Instinct rip-off.
It opens with a naked woman aggressively riding a strapped-down man moments before his death, followed directly by a crime scene investigation in the same bedroom with lots of cops talking about the murder in a jovially insensitive manner…
“What the hell is this?”
“That’s a nipple clamp.”
“How do you know?”
[Slimeball cop interjects] “He’s from LA.”
Plus there’s loads of references to fucking on cocaine, a smouldering femme fatale, a middle-aged actor’s bottom unpleasantly thrusting away at an increasingly poorly treated wife and Anne Archer wearing exactly the same trench coat as Jeanne Tripplehorn. What are the odds!?
‘Erotic’ sex involving some taboo element that hasn’t been previously exploited in another Hollywood film?
As mentioned above, there’s the nipple clamps, the handcuffs, general dominatrix stuff, plus mentions of amyl nitrate and a pretty full-on scene of cunnilingus in a parking garage.
But I guess the major taboo broken here is the fetish of finding Willem Dafoe attractive enough to spill candle wax on his penis and licking it off.
A thick layer of Hollywood gloss?
Oh yeah. Plus it’s got loads artfully arranged curtains so you can’t quite see too much sexy Madonna action.
Although that totally goes out of the window about an hour-in when Madonna starts wanking.
Hammy acting/Competent direction borrowing liberally from Hitchcock/Sensationalist dialogue?
Check. Check. And… wow, it’s difficult to know where to begin with the dialogue. Basically anything that comes out of Madonna’s mouth:
Frank: “[you had sex] in handcuffs?”
Madonna: “It was different, but it was still making love. Have you ever seen animals make love, Frank? It’s intense. It’s violent.”
Frank: “We’re not animals.”
Madonna: “Yes, we are.”
Good one Madge.
Toni’s favourite moment of the film is when the drapes in Madonna’s home beckon a conflicted Willem Dafoe inside like a giant vagina.
SHOCKINGLY IRRESPONSIBLE POLICE WORK?
“Better us than him,” says a forensics guy to the homicide detective after the corpse is wheeled away, as if he’d A) never seen a dead body before and B) never thought about his own mortality in light of said corpse.
LOADS OF RAIN?
Fucking droves of it mate.
Ridiculous houses that nobody in the real world can afford to live in?
Presenting Madonna’s house… an absurd wooden construction built on a jetty that is routinely left unlocked for any pervy Willem Dafoe-type-character to enter.
Ridiculous jobs that nobody in the real world has?
Madonna doesn’t seem to have a job. Or even a hobby.
She just likes to screw lots of older rich men till they die.
Oh wait, I guess she has both.
Sadly there is no Andy Garcia to add extra smoulder to proceedings. I’m sorry. Can I offer you instead Joe Mantegna’s wonderful head of hair and wise-guy asshole charm?
Forgotten character actors you’ll just about remember?
Anne Archer (mainly famous for being Jack Ryan’s wife in Patriot Games and Cleat and Present Danger and being a scientoligist).
Jürgen Prochnow (straddling the extremes of 80s filmmaking with Das Boot and Beverley Hills Cop II).
And the ‘Jump to Conclusions mat’ guy from Office Space.
Gigantic plot-holes so obvious you’ll notice them straight away?
Apart from the continuity error at the beginning where the victim’s hands are clearly uncuffed despite the police saying they found him cuffed when they arrived, and Madonna recognising Willem Dafoe’s wife even though they’ve never met, mainly it’s the bafflingly unbelievable courtroom stuff…
Especially the number of bombshells dropped by witnesses being cross-examined, when in any real court situation these things would already have been revealed to the defending lawyer prior to trial.
Which brings us to our very favourite moment of Body of Evidence…
A third-act twist?
Upon Madonna’s revelation that Frank Langella’s character Jeffrey is in fact gay – which somehow leads to the jury finding Madonna innocent, I’m not entirely clear why – the whole courtroom (and all prosecuting and defending lawyers) turn in shock to Jeffrey who is sat at the back of the courtroom.
Jeffrey then merely stands, nods, walks slowly to the exit of the court, turns around, nods again, then leaves.
It’s an oddly surreal moment, hilarious as it is entirely unrealistic.
“Wait! Come back! I think we need you for questioning! No? Okay then.”
Secondary last minute twist?
Oh please, as if you can’t already guess by this point.
End credits rolling IMMEDIATELY after the villain is killed?
The villain’s corpse barely hits the water before we’re told by Netflix that maybe we’d like to watch Jennifer 8 next.
And you know what, I think we would.
On the ‘crappy 90s thriller’ checklist, Body of Evidence scores an impressive 16/18. Losing two marks for not starring Andy Garcia and having a surprising lack of pseudo-psychology.