In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.
It's a town where William Hurt, a lawyer who's neither very bright nor very scrupulous, ekes out a modest existence that seems to suit him; he can dine at the best restaurant in town once a month so long as he doesn't order an appetizer. The rest of his time he spends lazily with bourbon or beer or in bed with whoever obliges him.
Then he meets up with Kathleen Turner, who hangs around cocktail lounges when her wheeler-dealer husband (Richard Crenna) is out of town, which is a lot. After the ritual game of cat-and-mouse, Turner and Hurt kindle a torrid romance, despite the enervating heat that keeps everything else limp as dishrags. Soon, the pillow talk works around to murder....
Of course, Body Heat is a latter-day version of the story for which Double Indemnity serves as archetype: Duplicitous woman seduces lust-addled stud into killing rich older husband, then leaves him to twist slowly, slowly in the wind. There's not even enough wind to stir the chimes that festoon the porch off Turner's bedroom -- can't the rich old cuckold spring for air conditioning? Hurt and Turner are reduced to emptying the refrigerator's ice tray into the post-coital bath they share -- but Hurt's left twisting nonetheless, in one of the better updates of this ageless tale.
In her movie debut, Turner makes her deepest impression with her best asset, that dimple-Haig voice of hers, all silk and smoke (but neither she nor Kasdan, who also wrote the script, quite justify her character's long and intricate back-story of ruthless scheming). With his long, lithe college-boy's build and wife-swapper's mustache left over from the '70s, Hurt embodies the self-satisfied patsy whose zipper leads him through life. Crenna (who played this Walter Neff role in the 1973 TV remake of Double Indemnity) now takes on the role of the disposable husband, the victim (or rather, the first victim).
But it's two smaller parts that give the movie a special shine. Mickey Rourke, as the local arsonist whom Hurt once helped out of a jam, ups the voltage in his two scenes, warning the heedless Hurt, then warning him again when it's all but too late. And, as Hurt's amiable adversary in the town's tiny legal circle, Ted Danson proves surprisingly spry and intuitive an actor (and he contributes a lovely little idyll, doing a soft-shoe routine under a street lamp on a pier). There's a twist or two too many in Body Heat -- it's a bit gimmicky -- but, after watching it, you feel as though you, too, should be stripping off your clothes, if only to wring them out.
- Dec 11, 2004