Wild Side

True romance. Virgina and Alex (Chen and Heche) find solace from the chaos around them...
The Director's Cut
Donald Cammell
scr China Kong, Donald Cammell
with Anne Heche, Christopher Walken, Stephen Bauer, Joan Chen, Allen Garfield, Adam Novack, Lewis Arquette, Michael Rose, Zion, Marcus Aurelius, Ian Johnson, Randy Crowder
95,00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Made in 1995 but disastrously re-edited by the studio, Wild Side is the final film by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed). Now four years after the filmmaker's suicide, it gets the director's cut treatment. And what emerges is a trashy 1970s-style crime romance with vivid characters and an almost overwhelming desire to both titillate and shock.

At the centre is Alex (Heche), an L.A. banking executive who works as a high-class hooker by night to make ends meet. One high-paying john is Bruno (Walken), a quirky, paranoid crime boss with an even more shifty driver/assistant Tony (Bauer) and a Chinese wife Virginia (Chen) who's also in the business. But everyone is hiding something, and soon there are all kinds of nasty extortions, assaults and entanglements springing up between this quartet of desperados, with key secrets being Tony's real identity as a FBI agent ... and Alex and Virginia's sudden attraction to each other.

Despite all the money talk, sex is the principle currency here, as it's used to express love, loyalty and, most frequently, power. There are a couple of virtually unwatchable rape sequences, and the scenes between Heche and Chen border on soft porn, leaving the film feeling slightly unhinged and amateurish despite the terrific performances. Heche is particularly good, with a fascinating, energetic turn as a woman clinging to any hope she can. Walken has never been so hilariously camp and creepy (which is saying a lot!); Bauer adds a disarming charm to his brutal thug of a character. And in addition to the camp value, this visually striking film does have a clever structure, spinning expectations around with secrets and subplots that aren't always logical but keep us intrigued even as it goes off the rails.

[18--very strong adult themes and situations, language, violence, nudity] 21.Jun.00
UK release 30.Jun.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall