Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It takes guts to make a movie in which the two leading players are manipulative, unscrupulous and spoilt. Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) seduces girls for sport. His stepsister, Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar), acts the responsible, caring type, while plotting revenge on her two-timing ex-boyfriend. Neither are nice.

As a present day adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it pulls no punches. Roger Kumble's screenplay lacks the finesse, charm and wit of Choderlos de Laclos's 18th century classic, which is what you might expect when transferred to Manhattan's deb scene in the cynical 1990s.

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Instead of jaded aristos in pre-Revolutionary France, you have rich young things with too much time on their hands. Kathryn persuades Sebastian to deflower the virginal Cecile (Selma Blair), her ex-beau's new love - a task he finds so easy it bores him - while placing a bet that he won't succeed in bedding Annette (Reese Witherspoon), a strong-willed girl from a good Southern family, who does not believe in sex before marriage.

There is something disturbing about this. Laclos's lot lived long enough in King Louis's court to appreciate its decadence and exploit its weakness. Sebastian and Kathryn take advantage of inherited wealth to inflict emotional pain on innocents, while satiating sexual desire wherever and whenever they please. Phillippe has a mean scowl and Gellar a false smile. The film is from the I Know What You Did Last Summer stable, and it shows.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2007
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Les Liaisons Dangereuses reimagined in 1990s Manhattan.
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Director: Roger Kumble

Writer: Roger Kumble based on the book by Choderlos de Laclos

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Louise Fletcher, Joshua Jackson, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas, Swoosie Kurtz, Christine Baranski, Alaina Reed Hall

Year: 1999

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


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