Body Heat (1981) (R)

"Body Heat" cannot be defined, and is one of the few movies that was designed to be pure escapism, truly a joy to watch. As its title might imply, it's a steamy, sultry, twisted movie whose plot never stops changing until you are left bewildered and amazed. It's a work in manipulation and it has never been so much fun to be thrown around in a film.
A lawyer who may not be as great as he thinks, Ned Racine (William Hurt) enjoys his fair share of women. At the beginning of the movie, he stands wistfully at the window and watches a building be burnt to the ground before returning to his muse.
The movie drops us in on an unfortunately hot summer. The heat has brought out the worst in people. This wouldn't be the first time that a movie relies on its temperature to set the mod. In "Dog Day Afternoon", "In the Heat of the Night" and late in "Do the Right Thing", the heat of the streets always turns people a little crazy. It's common.
But with "Body Heat" the temperature of the air makes people stir-crazy and horny. A bold man with little no no shame, Ned does out walking one day and stumbles across a woman of incredible beauty. Appearing like a vision from the skies, she oozes sex appeal and charm—he is willing to make a fool of himself just to be with her. His first advances are met with hesitancy; but he is a smooth talker, much better when flirting than when he's in the courtroom.
They strike up a dialogue, a very sexually frank one. It's clear that they both just want to start an affair and even though the woman is married—she keeps telling Ned this in the hopes that he will walk away—there is no real moral moral dilemma for the couple to overcome.
It doesn't take long for Ned and the woman introducing herself as Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) to hook up. Both creatures of weakness to their sexual demands, they eventually kindle a fiery relationship.
The sex scenes, which, unfortunately, the move has become famous for, are really not anything in comparison with today's bedroom montages. There is a fairly minute amount of nudity that appear ons screen, yet William Hurt and Kathleen Turner's passion and charisma make these scenes quite steamy...or as my father would say: "there was some serious sparking".
In all honesty, it's not that bad.
But there is more reason that just the erotica to watch "Body Heat", because there is a razor sharp plot that somehow creeps up on you. For much of the movie, it feels like a character driven piece, until things start to chance. What's actually kind of astonishing about "Body Heat" is the way it utilizes every character, every scene, and every line of dialogue to further its plot.
The passion of the lovers combined with the heat of the days has turned them into illogical people. Their lust becomes blood-lust and we know that in order for them to remain together, something is going to have to change.
"Body Heat" is a near perfect movie in terms of the sheer pleasure it is to watch. The movie has been criticized for its noir throwbacks, indeed much of the movie does remind us of Hitchcock and the smoky moments of Humphrey Bogart. It's this kind of movie that fueled the neonoir style of movie to keep being made and it would continue in "The Usual Suspects" and crime movies to follow. But beyond its own sexual openness, "Body Heat" helps birth the movie that we know to be the erotic-thriller.
It's the directorial debut piece of writer Lawrence Kasdan who worked with both Spielberg and Lucas on the "Indiana Jones" series and the "Star Wars" franchise...impressive resume.
I'm not saying that "Raiders of the Lost Ark" wasn't a good movie, but its comical indifference and childish action story makes it very, very odd to see "Body Heat" as a film coming from the same writer.
I think the most fair and the best movie to liken "Body Heat" to is "Vertigo". Perhaps the best facet of the movie is John Barry's sexy, brassy score. It's a very engaging movie. One that cannot be overlooked when looking at film. Though the film didn't really see its fair share of fame, it has been logged in the ether of cinema history.
"Body Heat", I think better than any other film, does make you feel the heat of the summer air, it does make you empathize with its two main characters—seemingly lost without each other—and it does have a terrific ending.
It's just a great that should be see.

Score: ★★★½

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