- William Hurt as Ned Racine
- Kathleen Turner as Matty Walker
- Richard Crenna as Edmund Walker
- Ted Danson as Peter Lowenstein
- J.A. Preston as Oscar Grace
- Mickey Rourke as Teddy Lewis
A truly scintillating and wicked neo noir, Body Heat provides dark-hearted and sexy viewing as temperatures rise and danger lurks. As the directing debut of Lawrence Kasdan, he crafts a sultry tale of seduction and murder that burns with an erotic frisson and superb performances from the leads William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. With this being my first viewing of the film after hearing all the praise it had received, I’m happy to report that Body Heat more than lived up to my expectations.
The setting is Florida as a sweltering and unbearable heat wave grips the area. Ned Racine is a sleazy lawyer who is bored and not exactly the sharpest guy out there. One fateful night while out, he encounters the seductive Matty Walker, a woman married to a very rich man. It is lust at first sight as Ned becomes entranced with the gorgeous Matty and soon begins a steamy affair with her while her husband is away. As the affair grows more intense, Matty begins to plant the seed of killing her husband. It appears that having signed a prenup, Matty wouldn’t inherit anything of her husbands fortune from a divorce. Only if her husband dies first does everything of value go to her. Increasingly bewitched by Matty, Ned agrees to it hoping that his workings with the law will enable the two to escape from justice. Successfully going through with it, Ned kills and seems to cover up any sign of murder, staging it as an arson job that went wrong. Yet as events take a darker turn, the bewildered Ned begins to realise that the alluring Matty has other ideas of her own and for the whole time has used him for her own gain in a devious plan. Yet by this point, it could be too late for Ned as he becomes prime suspect in the case that Matty so cunningly orchestrated and ensnared him in.
Lawrence Kasdan, as writer and debuting director, is on fine form in both seats. Respectfully giving notice to the dark noir of the past and updating it with a sexy pulse, he makes sure Body Heat is deliciously dark and wicked as hell. As writer, he contributes a smart, crackling script laced with double entendres and a keen sense of events unraveling slowly but very surely in a suitably dark and dangerous style. With this movies, the talented Kasdan works utter wonders in the way he brings out the dangerous machinations that femme fatale Matty has crafted in a slow burning way and cloaks them in a sweltering and sexual ambience. There are some excellent moments of dark foreshadowing that are peppered through Body Heat as warnings for Ned that he misses as the plot becomes more sinister.The heatwave that grips steamy Florida almost becomes a character itself and as an audience, we can feel the sweat and steamy passion sizzling from every frame. I think it’s safe to say that after viewing Body Heat, you may need to cool down from the sizzling heat of it all. And speaking of sizzling, no discussion of Body Heat would be complete without talking about the erotic encounters between Ned and Matty. Strikingly shot in bold oranges and shadows, they form the darkly passionate core of the movie and the chemistry between Hurt and Turner practically sets the screen on fire. A score accentuated with smooth jazz from John Barry goes a long way in helping set the sultry tone of this masterful thriller.
William Hurt is well cast as Ned, capturing the womanizing nature, easily led and naive mannerisms of him as he quickly becomes trapped in Matty’s plan and can’t see no way out as he is clearly in over his head because of his blinding passion for her. Yet the biggest impression made in Body Heat is from Kathleen Turner, in what was her debut role. Seductive, husky voiced and coldly calculating beneath the surface, Turner is marvellous at imbuing Matty with a dark sense of deception, masked by come hither glances and sexual energy. It is the definition of a star making role and Turner knows it as she creates a modern femme fatale who is bad to the bone and as manipulative as they come, constantly two steps ahead of all the other characters. Engaging supporting performances from Richard Crenna as the ill-fated husband, Ted Danson as Ned’s nerdy prosecutor friend and Oscar Grace as a detective thinking that Ned knows more than he’s telling all contribute their presence to the film. And watch out for an early performance from Mickey Rourke as one of Ned’s former clients who supplies him with the means to go through with murder.
Body Heat is an excellent example of how to successfully create a neo noir with just the right amount of hat-tipping to the past and the perfect contemporary setting for modern audiences.