While I generally enjoy a good noir, mostly since it plays its tropes straight, so I always know where I stand with them, I’ve had a somewhat mixed reception to neo-noir. That, and overly romantic films (melodramatic or not), sexually or otherwise, so it was with some heavy trepidation that I went into The Last Seduction, a film by John Dahl. I started the film, waited for it to get up to speed, and then found that I didn’t have to wait for long. From there, thanks to the film knowing full well what its strongest assets are and focusing on them, I quickly found myself immersed in a rather enjoyable flick, even if what actually happens in the film may not be the enjoyable part.
Bridget, a young femme fatale in every sense of the term, is married to Clay, who sells black market meds to help him pay off a loan shark, in NYC. After a particularly big score, Bridget steals the money and runs to Buffalo, changing her name and getting a new job, which puts her in the field of vision of Mike, who quickly takes a liking to the unlikable female. I mentioned in the opener how this film knows its strengths and plays to them. Well, I probably should’ve said ‘strength’; there are other aspects of this film that make it work, but none of them can hold a candle to the spotlight that is Linda Fiorentino. Contrary to the genre’s typically male protagonists, The Last Seduction focuses entirely on its femme fatale, and it couldn’t have made a better decision by doing so; Fiorentino absolutely commands the entire film, manipulating and scheming to get anything and everything she wants, down to the littlest things, and it’s a hallmark of the film that she almost always gets what she’s aiming for, right down to the end of the film. It is a true shame that the distributors chose to screen the film on HBO before its theatrical release, thus exempting the film from qualifying for the Academy Awards, or Fiorentino would’ve certainly gotten a nomination, and even would’ve had a damn good shot at winning, for Best Actress. The female lead aside, the film does work on a few other levels. The other two leads, males, don’t nearly measure up to Bridget, but they hold their own in each scene, particularly Mike, who has to spend virtually the entire film in Bridget’s shadow. The other main thing I liked about this one was the score; the music for the film was delightfully irreverent, almost intentionally flying in the face of the genre, like the composer was smirking at noir films of the past while he was producing it, and it made the film a lot more watchable than a typically morose and dour musical theme would’ve done. I was thankful for it.
The only qualm I really had with this is one I brought up in the previous paragraph; the film treats Bridget as an absolutely flawless and perfect manipulator, to the point that there is not a thing in this film that she does not end up either getting, or working around to her advantage to ultimately get what she wants. It made for compelling viewing, mostly for how ballsy it was, but by the end of the film, I had pretty much had enough. I don’t know why certain screenwriters choose to try and write a script with a virtually flawless character, because flawless characters are incredibly one-note; they don’t make any mistakes or wrong decisions, so there’s no point in investing in what may happen to them, since you already know it’s just going to work out for them somehow in the end. Imagine Superman without his weakness to kryptonite; that’s how I felt about Bridget’s powers of manipulation in The Last Seduction. That being said, this was still pretty entertaining, and definitely more so than I was expecting, so I’ll ultimately call this a win. It’s not a win without its problems, but I was still entertained, so I’ll give it that.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10