They don’t make films like this any more, in fact it is amazing that a film like this was made as recently as 1994. It used to be that Hollywood made lots of these films with actresses like this; stories of cold-hearted black widows who coerce seemingly smart men to murder each other, usually for money and that famous ‘double indemnity’. The only other popular film in recent memory would be Kathleen Turner’s Body Heat. Oh, there are films about women who torment men (notably Michael Douglas) but they are either demented to begin with or are driven crazy by the actions of men.
Linda Fiorentino’s Bridget Gregory can claim neither. She is diabolically smart and her only love in money. The film noir genre is full of like women played by Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and Bette Davis amongst others, however few were as unrelentingly dark and mean spirited as Fiorentino’s Bridget. The current crop of bad girls aren’t really bad – they generally get their comeuppance in some sort of circular justice Hollywood way.
Bill Pullman plays a New York down and out doctor-cum-drug dealer. He prescribes restricted pharmaceuticals to druggies on the side, however this is all small beans. He borrows $100,000 from a loan shark and does the deal of a lifetime netting $700,000 - $110,000 going back to the loan shark - well, that's the deal were it not for his wife, Bridget. She runs off with the loot and poor Pullman, who is known for his nice guy roles but is suitably oily here, then has to face an angry loan shark.
Bridget runs off to an out of state suburban “burg” as it were and has to melt in, hoping the loan shark will take care of her husband. He does perform some surgery on Pullman, which certainly is not the type that's covered by Medicare.
In the meantime she files for divorce, but she can’t spend the money since any assets are likely to be split up. She can’t accept that. As long as the money is liquid, they are both safe. Worse still, they can both implicate each other so someone must go.
She changes her name and gets a job at a local insurance company. She needs to hatch a second plan and this involves a work colleague played with all the SNAG goodness of Peter Berg (notably from David E. Kelley's Chicago Hope).
Pullman is not sitting on his hands, however. He hires a private investigator to find Bridget which is hard, given that her whereabouts and alias are both unknown. Meanwhile, Bridget has to convince her new boyfriend to return to New York to meet with Pullman for some unfinished business.
Fiorentino has to carry this film, as the men here are all classic “patsys”. Berg has problems thinking with an erection and perhaps a ‘soft’ heart. Pullman tries a reconciliation with Bridget even in his dire situation. Like William Hurt in Body Heat, the men are more attractive when they are dumb.
The story is not overly complex, but the machinations of Bridget Gregory are a labyrinth. Credit goes to the screenwriter, as this is the sort of script someone like Joe Esterhasz wishes he could write. He too uses beautiful women and although Fiorentino is stunningly attractive, being tall and dark haired and wearing heels and short skirts, that only goes so far. She is in control from start to finish - and that finish is something else. The last 15 minutes are exquisite in execution with a number of completely unexpected turns, I won’t even give a hint to what they are, as they are that out there yet so believable as they are all under the tight control of the lead actress.
The anamorphic 1.85:1 image is uniformly excellent. It is a suitably dark print with many scenes at night with the sound of thunder and rain slicked roads - this is ‘noir’ after all. It does, however, have brightly lit day scenes that are reminiscent of a high quality TV movie. You won’t mistake this for a truly big budget production, but the director and cinematographer do a fantastic job portraying the mystery in the locations. OK, so New York is as expected, but suburban Buffalo cannot be a stronger contrast. The colours have a rightness about them with some strong blacks and deep hues, especially skin tones. Fiorentino has that bloodless pallor that evokes the black and white femme fatales of the thirties.
Also some aspects of this film revolve around small details, as any crime drama does, and these details are very clear which helps the intelligibility of the story.
Flaws are rare. There’s slight edge enhancement in certain places and sharpness could be better especially in large external scenes. The lawns in suburban Buffalo county are not as convincingly clear as in other films.
The audio is Dolby Stereo at 192k/s. I know it sounds boring, but I would say that the soundtrack succeeds in spite of the low credentials. The vocals are generally easily understandable except where the actors speak away from the camera or words are spat out angrily.
The music scoring is exquisite. It evokes a different era, it’s jaunty, jazzy at times, while other times it evokes Mike Hammer and the Harlem Nocturne. I am reminded of other films of a like genre; there is a bit of Woody Allen’s more serious work here as well. It really helps set the mood and is a credit to the music director.
Effects are limited, although there is a lot of subtlely captured in 192k/b. Trains rumble past, trees rustle, the front sound stage is strong. An example is the secretarial pool at the two leads’ place of work. There’s the constant clatter of keyboards and typewriters.