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Wild Things (Limited Edition 4K)
I guess I either never understood or got behind the long-term sustaining fascination with Wild Things. It made a modest amount of money theatrically, spawned several straight to video sequels, most everyone involved seemed to be strangely entertained by the schlock involved, and when I saw it back in the day, I guess I didn't really get it? It was one thing to be sensationalist, and the film sure was that, but past being a garden variety soap opera running 110 minutes, I remain unsure what all the fuss was about.
Stephen Peters wrote the film that John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) directed. Set in the fictitious Blue Bay, Florida, Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon, Crash) is a popular figure at the local high school, a mix of passion for teaching kids, and physical charisma that could very easily have put him in trouble before. And it may have this time, with rich girl Kelly (Denise Richards, Starship Troopers) accuses him of rape. He endures being ostracized and harassed before the trial, in which he's represented by a prototypical ambulance-chasing lawyer (Bill Murray, Lost In Translation), and when the trial hinges on the testimony of white trash local Suzy (Neve Campbell, Scream), well that's when business starts to pick up.
The main cast seems to sort of buy the arcs that they have to undertake in Wild Things, and adding another one into the mix is Kevin Bacon (Mystic River), who plays the police detective leading the investigation into the charges of Sam and is one of the film's producers. Bacon's character Ray serves as a reflection of the various class struggles within Blue Bay, but as the film goes on, he's more the viewer's window into their world and how things change, between the characters, until things get to a point where he's part of the twists and turns. And he noted some of those turns as the film was getting made, which leads us to a theorem I like to float out there every so often.
Playing in a bad or even trashy film is one thing, but if the ensemble can or does not throw the weights of their efforts into the characters then the selling just will not work. And Campbell and Richards' whose faces were on the poster and who received the bulk of the attention, do what they can to make their roles work; Richards' hurling a pitcher of water against a wall, but running in high heels to do it, is the stuff of daytime soap athletic legend and she handled it well. Campbell playing the goth loner type? Also great! There are others who do their work to a good degree too.
While the lack of uniformity in dedication may be one thing, it's another to suggest that actors who are generally good in their filmographies may be incapable of handling things in a trashy manner; it's one thing for Dillon to do it because he's good at it; I'm not sure if Bacon had or has the club in his bag to play a character where he has to set aside his prodigious talents (and he didn't, if you remember watching Wild Things all the way to the end, if you know what I mean). He looks stilted, and as act two goes into act three, he's the guy who has the most impact on things, and it does not work.
It's not that Wild Things is a bad movie, but with a lot of familiar faces it in, it's an anonymous morsel of titillation that seems like the ensemble really wanted people to care about (which they appear to have, since this boxed set is now out). But it's not the movie that people think that it is if there were any self-reflection in the world, so perhaps forgetting about it should be the way to go.The UHD:
Arrow has provided 4K restorations of the original 108-minute theatrical and 115-minute unrated versions, both from the original negative and approved by McNaughton for the release, with the results looking good. Image detail is excellent on the closer shots and color reproduction is fantastic, with excellent shadow delineation and contrasts. There were a couple of moments of darker haloing that were a little distracting (the cross examination of Kelly being one of the first examples I saw), but the image can bring it when it needs to, say when one of the gators pokes his head out of the water thanks to Jeffrey Kimball's cinematography. Solid work by Arrow.The Sound:
DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround for both tracks and boy when that 90s music kicks, it kicks with a passion! But the dialogue sounds firm and well-balanced throughout and the underlying score is broad and convincing. Either in the swamp or the pool, ambient noise is natural and pans when it has to, and is immersive and effective regardless of the cut. The audio work is also restored for this and is another good piece of work by Arrow.The Extras:
Basically Arrow gave the world a package that is geared for the fans. Along with the two versions, there are two commentary tracks to go with them. One includes McNaughton and producer Steven Jones which is listed first, but is the more drier of the two, as they spend a lot of time watching the film and pointing things out that occur onscreen. It's starts out listless and doesn't really pick up. I think in part this was due to the second listed commentary, which includes the pair, along with Kimball, producer Rodney Liber, editor Elana Maganini and composer George S. Clinton. That track is far livelier, as it gets into scene and shot intent (Kimball doesn't show up in the track until 35 minutes in), and stories about hanging out with Bill Murray and alligator wranglers, to name a few. It's nice both tracks are here, but the larger group one is the way to go.
McNaughton contributes an interview for this new release (26:20), where he talks about his thoughts on the script when he first read it, his research trips for preproduction, *that* scene and *that other* scene and the anecdotes for each, and how his films age, and whether this one has. It's a nice alternate look at his takes. Richards also does a recent interview (14:04) where she talks about her career when she first got the role, and working with the other actors on set. There are dated on-set interviews (4:18) with the film's other stars, and "An Understanding Lawyer" (:27) includes alternate Murray lines. A stills gallery and trailer complete the disc package, but you can also have a choice of a 4K steelbook with alternate cover art, with the other extras being the same, including the boxed set, six lobby card reproductions, a double-sided poster which includes the limited edition art on one side and the movie art on the other, and a 60-page booklet on the film which includes appreciations, pictures and other bric-a-brac.Final Thoughts:
I think we can safely say that this is going to be the most complete, most attractive version of Wild Things that will get released, and that it's not particularly close. My thoughts on the movie aside, the efforts put into this package are really impressive. Two commentaries, retrospective material, new transfers, all this stuff takes time and if you like the film even a little, you are going to want to buy it, so similar films get a similar treatment by studios in the future. Technically the film is excellent but not perfect, and the supplements are fine. If you haven't seen it do yourself a favor, since it's the summer, and check it out.