New Orleans real estate developer Charlie LeBlanc (Burt Reynolds) may have immense wealth and a seemingly perfect marriage to a former Calvin Klein model,
but as his health takes a potentially fatal turn for the worse, his confidence in his wife's fidelity fades. As a test, Charlie offers struggling cocky carpenter Jimmy Mulate (Peter Facinelli; Fastlane) ten grand to seduce his wife, upping the ante to $50,000 if Jimmy can provide some proof that he went through with the act. Lily (Saffron Burrows; Deep Blue Sea) initially rejects Jimmy's awkward advances, but when she stumbles upon Charlie's ploy to test her, she takes full advantage of the situation, confirming whatever lingering doubts Charlie may have had.
Charlie is not unexpectedly murderously enraged initially, but on the advice of his pal and righthand man Dot (Mike Starr; 3 A.M.), he decides to toss a few grand Jimmy's way and try to forget the entire unpleasant mess. Jimmy's response sets into motion an onslaught of betrayal, shattering what little trust remains and resulting in a hefty pile of lifeless bodies.
The synopsis above may not sound like it veers too far from the well-tread path of the erotic thrillers that litter Cinemax in the wee hours of the morning, and...well, Tempted doesn't really set out to pave out new cinematic territory. Unconvincing and occasionally indiscernable accents aside, the cast puts in a set of solid performances, particularly the sultry Saffron Burrows and Mike Starr as Charlie's fiercely loyal pal. The handful of steamy love scenes between Lily and Jimmy exhibit a kind of ferocity and longing that's generally lacking in similar movies. The New Orleans setting is perfect for this sort of material, in a lot of ways coming across as a distinct character of its own.
The premise is somewhat reminiscent of Wild Things or Malice, movies where it's never really certain where loyalties stand, and seemingly everyone in the cast winds up double-or-quadraseptuple-crossed at some point or another. The twists and turns don't feel as forced or unnatural as in either of those movies, but one attempt in particular to toss in some additional intrigue fails miserably. This subplot involves Jimmy, his buddy Ted (Eric Mabius), and the murdered son of a prominent politician, though this has little bearing on the larger story and doesn't directly appears to lead anywhere at all.
Tempted is easy to dismiss as just another erotic thriller, though the sexual elements aren't as unnecessarily lurid as in shoddier fare, and writer/director Bill Bennett's approach prefers mood and atmosphere to empty thrills. Tempted hits DVD courtesy of HBO Home Video with a full-frame presentation, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and minimal extras.
Video: At first, I thought Tempted was the victim of mislabeled packaging.
The first couple of minutes are letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but in the space of a single cut, the image opens up to the 4x3 framing promised on the snapper case. It appears that Tempted got at least a limited theatrical release overseas, and though I'm not sure what the preferred aspect ratio of the movie is, the framing doesn't suffer with the full height of the 1.33:1 frame exposed. Also possibly of note is that the 1.66:1 letterboxing is somewhat more heavily weighted towards the top of the screen rather than both sets of bars being the same size.
Tempted has somewhat of a stylized palette, with the majority of the movie drenched in one color or another. The bulk of the film has a golden tint to it, leaning towards greens and reds in a pair of bars. The only scenes in which colors look relatively normal follow some of Tempted's more notable confrontations, which I'm sure is meant to symbolically convey some sort of greater meaning, but damned if I know what it is.
The presentation is decent enough, appearing crisp and sharp throughout, though detail occasionally struck me as somewhat lacking. A handful of the more dimly lit scenes are rather grainy, and the final shot of the movie looks as if it could've been culled from a twenty-year old 16mm print of Friday the 13th Part II. The image expectedly doesn't exhibit much in the way of wear, free of any notable print flaws with only a couple of small flecks popping up intermittently. There is some minor shimmering around a set of blinds in a lawyer's office, but I don't have any major qualms or concerns about the transfer.
Audio: Tempted features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (384Kbps), though this isn't the sort of movie that cries out for the multichannel treatment.
Being so heavily driven by dialogue and imagery on-screen, it follows that there isn't much activity in the lower frequencies, though the surround channels get a fair amount of use. The rears are generally used to reinforce the score as well as provide scattered ambiance, such as crowd noise in a blues club or cars whizzing by in the background. The surrounds also offer an effective echo during a brawl in an unfinished house. There are a handful of directional effects as well as some noticeable stereo separation, but don't expect to hear audio leaping frantically from channel to channel. Dialogue comes through crisply and cleanly, but de tick Cajun accent, dey sometime hard t' fully unnastan'.
Tempted also includes a pair of stereo surround tracks, one in English and the other in Spanish. Rounding out the audio options are closed captions as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: The only extras are reasonably lengthy biographies for Burt Reynolds, Saffron Burrows, Peter Facinelli, and writer/director/producer Bill Bennett.
The 4x3 menus are static and silent, going overboard with the brushed metal look. Tempted has been divided into sixteen chapters.
Conclusion: Tempted stands a bit above your average made-for-cable love and betrayal flick, but there's nothing about the movie or its release on DVD that warrants its $26.98 list price. Recommended for fans of the genre or just those who want to see Saffron Burrows get a little naughty on-camera, but other than that, save Tempted for a cheap rental or fish it out of a bargain bin down the road. Rent It.
Boring Image Disclaimer: The screen captures in this review are compressed, slightly digitally sweetened, and don't necessarily reflect the appearance of the movie on DVD.