Body Heat (1981) Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. With William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Ted Danson, Richard Crenna and Mickey Rourke.
Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who had previously worked as a co-writer on The Empire Strikes Back alongside George Lucas, Body Heat qualifies as classic film-noir with its cloak-and-dagger themes of murder and seduction. Starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner (her film debut) – the film is set during a Florida heatwave and follows the misadventures of an unscrupulous small time lawyer (Hurt). One sweltering night, he meets Matty (Turner), a beautiful married woman – which begins a dangerous affair.
Amid the haze of the heat, there’s a dream-like quality to the film, which aided by John Barry’s lounge-room saxophone led-score, sets a thick sense of intrigue. William Hurt is excellent as Ned Racine, a man driven by lustful desire – caught in its increasingly tangled-web. As the spider in the web, Kathleen Turner evokes the screen legend of Lauren Bacall in the 1940’s – oozing sex-appeal with her husky, dry-witted delivery.
As a fellow lawyer, Ted Danson brings levity with a fine supporting performance – knowingly teasing with a brand of thinly-veiled humour that taunts the guilty conscience of his friend/colleague. There are also good supporting turns from Mickey Rourke and J.A Preston, in smaller roles.
In his debut feature, Kasdan does a fine job of building his characters, while simultaneously moving the story forward. From the perspective of raw passion, we fully believe the motivations of Hurt’s character, which is essential to selling the drama of the second and third acts.
Kasdan’s love of film-noir is evident as he creates his own significant instalment in its rich, evolving history. With all the right ingredients mixed-in, Body Heat is brimming with tension and suspense, with Kathleen Turner embodying the vital essence of the classic Hollywood screen siren. Hot stuff indeed. 4.5/5