(director: Dominique Deruddere; screenwriters: Charlie Higson/Lise Mayer; cinematographer: Jean-Francois Robin; editor: Kant Pan; cast: Pete Postlethwaite (Glover), Geraldine Pailhas (Helen ), Antonie Kamerling (Chris ), Tom Jansen (Receptionist, Paul), Suzanne Colin (Woman with dog); Runtime: 110; Feature Film; 1995-UK/Belg.)

“It was just a dull and exploitative movie…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Set in the French Riviera, this erotic thriller directed by Dominique Deruddere (Crazy Love/Wait Until Spring Bandini) is a story about who has control: a young hustler or an older impotent man. Chris (Kamerling) is a virile, not too bright, arrogant, handsome young man; Glover (Postlethwaite) is a very wealthy, crafty invalid in a wheelchair and living in a ritzy hotel with nothing but time on his hands. Into his suite 16 stumbles the dazed Chris, bleeding profusely from his head wound suffered when his gigolo robbery took a bad turn. Chris believes he might have murdered the older woman with the pooch whom he enticed up to her room for sex, and when she refused to be robbed that easily he worked her over.

The ego-maniacal Glover has grown lonely and twisted inside, and strangely enough is not frightened of the young criminal on the run. Instead he makes him an offer he can’t very well refuse, stay with me and I’ll give you everything you want. Chris’ needs are material things — such as: clothes, beer, food, cocaine, and women. In return, Glover receives a vicarious thrill watching him on a hidden video camera while Chris makes it with the prostitutes he supplies. It all turns out to be a tedious game to see who is in control: brains or brawn. The kid plays his part like he’s a lump of coal and the sex is so uninviting, making it seem like watching paint dry on a wall.

Glover’s servant, Paul (Jansen), serves as the intermediary for Glover, carrying out all his orders. And like all the characters, is not fully developed. There is no reason for all this sleaze to be taking place, except for making the audience into voyeurs like the invalid.

What is quickly resolved is that Glover isn’t queer just manipulative and, probably, mentally sick. It is also determined that Chris is a misfit, unable to accomplish even his mundane aim in life to become rich and live in the Caribbean. He is a failure in everything he does, even as a hustler, blaming all his misfortune on a poor upbringing. It is hard to feel anything for him but contempt.

The film hit a dry spot for a long spell until a pretty school-age working girl, Helen (Geraldine Pailhas), enters the picture, and the threesome play off each other’s flaws. She’s brought into the picture because Glover has upped the ante, he now wants Chris to pick out a woman in the street and murder her. She’s the one he picks.

Chris doesn’t have it in him to be a cold-blooded murderer, so he pretends to be killing her so he can collect the huge sum of money offered to do the job. Glover is disappointed in the young man, and ends up inviting Helen back to the suite for some more fun (sic!) and games. The sadistic games are better delivered now with the presence of Helen, but the ménage à trois attempts do not have the nuances and wit to pull off the macabre effects the director was trying desperately to go for. And the new rivalry between the girl and boy, never amounts to much of a story.

The film tries to build to a powerful climax, as it becomes obvious that Glover has a death-wish. He reads from a poem by a Zen monk who is about to die, which goes something like this — “In all my 56-years alive, I’ve seen no miracles. It is okay to die today. Day after Day does not the sun rise in the east?”

But even that attempt to get some intellect into the story fizzled, as the film just wound down trying to outsmart itself with shockers. It ended up not being a very thrilling thriller or even living up to its reputation of being a controversial film. It was just a dull and exploitative movie, distinguished only by the fine performance of a very good actor, Pete Postlethwaite, who seemed to be overwhelmed by being in such a trying film.