When asked to sum up movie villains people often just go straight for male villains, although personally speaking (and I Know I’m not alone in my thoughts) I think one of the best movie villains certainly of the 1990’s was Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) in John Dahl’s thriller The Last Seduction.
Bridget is a hardnosed businesswoman working in New York in lead generation; her Doctor husband Clay (Bill Pullman)has borrowed money from an unconventional source, a dangerous source. After a build up of tension Clay makes a nasty error and slaps Bridget, leaving her to trick him and run off with the borrowed cash. Heading for Buffalo to escape her husband Bridget assumes a new identity Wendy Kroy and becomes director of lead generation in a small company.
Mike (Peter Berg) is a local who having just returned to town is looking for something a little different, that something just happens to be Wendy (Bridget). She treats him incredibly badly but he does not seem to care, her general meanness keeping him all the keener. All the time using him, but keeping him distant, Mike begs to be closer but is constantly rejected. But when Mike is invited into the inner circle of Wendy, what he gets is far from what he expected.
If you believe the rumours, the role of Bridget Gregory was written for Fiorentino, allegedly the awkwardness and general unpleasant nature of Bridget mirrored Fiorentino’s less than cheerful real life disposition. Apparently one of the most difficult women in Hollywood to work with (which might explain why she has not done any acting work in near on 7 years) you can easily see that Fiorentino relishes this role. The contempt she treats all she encounters with comes easily to this feisty actress. But regardless of how much is her or not Bridget Gregory is a slippery individual, she has no time for manners; people who work in bars are far removed from her world, while people further up the hierarchical food chain to Bridget are just targets for her to abuse. To Bridget everyone is a form of commodity simply put on the earth to be used as a plaything, whether it is for business or for sex.
The Last Seduction is a plodding but highly addictive movie, over halfway through the movie and little plot has developed you know nothing more about Bridget than you learned in the first 10 minutes, but all the time like a terrible storm your fully aware that something is brewing, what you don’t know is exactly when the storm is going to strike. Having endured this hour of meaningless suddenly you start to see the pay off, you realise that Bridget is going into deep and dark territory that you might not have expected from the offset.
Bill Pullman is an unusual casting in this sort of movie, remaining his usual comedic self, he also has a darker side that sadly we never really get to see carried out to full fruition. As Bridget runs from their home Pullman’s character Clay leans out of the window and shouts “You’d better run!” and you know he means it. Clay then proceeds by any means possible to get to understand where Bridget has gone using private detectives to carry out his dirty work.
Considering that The Last Seduction is only 17 years old there are some telling age signs that beggar belief and seem almost impossible to comprehend. The fact that Clay hires not but one but several private detectives to return a hundred thousand dollars (fifty thousand pounds), these days a detective either side of the world would take a massive chunk of that money in recovery. The two dollar Manhattan that Bridget orders in Joes Bar at the movies start also made me smile, you’d be lucky to buy a half decent bar of chocolate for that nowadays. And finally the general awe of Buffalo’s locals as a black private eye enters town. “There’s a black man here to see you” explains Bridget’s secretary “And he’s black!” as Bridget walks away another worker approaches the secretary “Did you tell her a black man is here?” I wonder if this is the true state of Buffalo today?
Peter Berg is a necessary tool but an annoying plot device as the limp brained office worker and lover. I never could get to grips with Berg as an actor, now having not seen the movie for several years I find him more annoying than I ever did before. He just seems the most out of place of all the characters, taking almost the leading man role but without the bottle either in character or as a performer to back it up; bland is not quite the word. He is not even what I would consider to be a good looking partner for this sexual character, while Fiorentino’s character could quite literally have anyone, its rather confusing to understand why she would choose this gormless offering.
On the plus side we have another well cast role as the late JT Walsh stars as Bridget’s quick witted and even quicker tongued lawyer/advisor Frank Griffith. You forget the strength that Walsh offered to a movie; just a glimpse was all it took, all his career a likeable character even when playing the bad guy. JT Walsh here like he was in every other movie is the ultimate icing on the cake.
There are some lovely scenes in which Fiorentino plays tricks on a private detective parked outside her house, although in one case deeply disturbing its entertaining viewing that you can’t help but raise a smile at, sadly if you do smile it illustrates the fact that your every bit as sick as Fiorentino’s character.
The Last Seduction is like a burrowing animal, it gets under your skin and you enjoy it; but other than Fiorentino’s nasty disposition most of the movie is forgettable, but not in a bad way.