I recently had a conversation with a buddy of mine about this movie and he mentioned that it’s the wild card in the sexy thriller deck. I think I agree with him because it’s definitely odd in more ways than one but the main thing that makes it such a strange fucking film is that who the hell gets off on car crashes? You know what? Maybe there are a whole bunch of people out there that do but I don’t so I think it’s weird fuck you.
James Spader (Pretty in Pink, Wolf) is movie producer James Ballard and he’s married to Catherine played by Deborah Kara Unger (Payback, The Game). They like to experiment with sex and try things like having sex with different people and in precarious locations like an airplane hangar and a camera room. One day James gets into a car accident that sends the guy in the other car flying through the fucking windshield killing him. The woman in the car that James crashed into (Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona, The Firm)) almost immediately starts to masturbate in front of him. James gets injured pretty badly with a busted leg but he’s fine otherwise. When they both get out of the hospital they meet up at the junk yard where the totaled cars are kept. Hunter takes him to a gathering where they recreate the car crash of James Dean with an old 50’s Porsche. Now that car has got to be extremely valuable but they just crash it because the man behind this endeavor is Vaughn (Elias Koteas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Exotica)) and he likes famous car wrecks. I mean he really really likes that shit. He drives around in an old black Lincoln, the same type of car that JFK was assassinated in. Vaughn likes authenticity and if that means destroying a classic car then so be it. Anyway, he brings James and his wife into his world of getting high and sexually aroused by car crashes.
Goddamn, what a concept for a movie. I really think that this was perfectly executed too. It’s amazing how passionate and almost uncontrollable these people get when they’re around cars and the aftermath of a crash. Yeah, it’s not just the actual accident but what it leaves behind that’s equally as fascinating to our characters. Vaughn is covered with scars and is all pale and grimy as a motherfucker. James and Catherine idolize him because of his crashing experience and also because they love his car. Catherine calls it “a bed on wheels”. Both of them are looking to get into the game and want scars and banged up cars too.
Unfortunately Vaughn is the only standout as the other characters are all kinda the same. But (and this is a big but) we have James fucking Spader here. He’s so damn good at acting like the creepiest and most awkward person you’ve ever met. Yet he manages to be so engaging at the same time. Even though Spader plays characters (this one included) that you wouldn’t want to hang out with you still want to see what perverted thing he’s going to do next. Deborah Kara Unger plays basically the female version of James in this. We never see them disagree on anything or question each other. They both dig car crashes the same amount. This also means that they both find the same things attractive like Vaughn’s car and even Vaughn himself. Both of them end up fucking him and that’s not a spoiler. So much weird shit happens I couldn’t spoil this thing even if I tried.
Holly Hunter is also like a female James but she might have a little less control over her desires. There’s one part where she’s watching a video of footage from a crash testing lab with James and some others and the tape suddenly pauses. She gets anxious and a little upset and needs to finish watching it. After a couple of seconds the tape starts playing again and there’s a big sigh of relief. She sits back down on the couch and all of the people watching then go back to rubbing each other’s crotches.
Almost the entire movie is done in whisper talking which I found kind of annoying and even had to turn on the subtitles to understand what they were saying. But at the same time I like the super cool way that everyone acts. No one sees any of this as a big deal. I mean they’re interested in car wrecks and the scars that they leave behind but all of these people manage to stay calm during the whole film. It adds to the intensity of the subject matter and forces you to take the whole thing a little more seriously (or you might find it kinda silly, I got sucked in though). The sparse strumming guitar is pure 90’s and I love it. Some big score or busy music wouldn’t have worked. Like I just said, this film is intense and a minimalist score just piles on to it.
I’m a big David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone, Eastern Promises) fan and I want to say that this is his weirdest picture but that honor still goes to Videodrome in my opinion. I mean videodrome isn’t even a real word. At least with this one you can totally follow it and understand what these people are doing. But getting back to that conversation that I had with my pal, he brought up a good point that this is a sexy movie but the problem is that it’s only sexy if you’re into car crashes which I can’t imagine most people are. So the whole concept of the movie is flawed and kinda works against itself. I mean you could substitute anything in for car accidents and have some other weird fetish but I think Cronenberg chose a good one because it’s unpredictable if you’ll live, die, be scared temporarily, permanently, how the car will fare, what type of car or object you’ll crash into and so on. There are a ton of factors that go into the outcome so it makes it exciting. I really love how fucking strange this piece is. It’s an extremely sexy film that most people aren’t really going to find sexy. I don’t know if Cronenberg is saying something here and all of this shit is a metaphor for something but I’m not gonna even attempt to figure it out and just take this thing at face value.
Keep in mind that this is rated NC-17 too. Cronenberg decided not to compromise his vision and cut it down to R. Well, there is an R version on the DVD but who the fuck needs that? If you’re gonna watch this thing then NC-17 is the way to go. I don’t even know what the difference is between the versions and I don’t want to know. It’s unfortunate that a lot of filmmakers have to edit their movies down to achieve an R rating so that theaters will carry it and that people will see it. But I’m all for NC-17. I think it’s good to push those boundaries and see what we can do.
I definitely recommend this one. I think it’s safe to say that either you’re gonna love it or hate it. It’s not like this movie takes it’s time to build up. You’ll know from the very start if you’re gonna enjoy this or not. If you stick with it it’s a helluva ride. I had no idea where things were going or what it was all leading up to but that’s part of why I like this film so much. You’re just along for the ride and you don’t know what dark alley it’ll take you down next. The whole experience is like a hit and run. Crash comes along, hits you with all this stuff out of left field and then it’s over rather suddenly leaving you feeling confused and kinda fucked up wondering if what you saw really happened. This is a great late night movie that seems like a dream. It may not be thrilling in the traditional sense but I count it as a sexy thriller anyway. It’s an incredible piece of work.
Sex Scenes: Holy shit seven. Not only are there a lot of sex scenes but there’s a ton of crotch grabbing and a full frontal. One scene in particular is a raunchy standout where James and Catherine are having sex while Catherine asks James all these questions about Vaughn’s penis and anus.
After Sex Scenes: Surprisingly none. For a movie with so many sex scenes you would think there would at least be one. Actually, there might have been one in there but it’s hard to tell.
Strange Cameos: Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction, Nowhere to Run) plays a friend of Vaughn’s that’s also into this car crashing stuff.