Review: “Cruel Intentions”

The whole teen film revival of the last year or so has proven to result in more bad films than good. Last year the best example in the genre was the deliciously trashy thriller “Wild Things” which mixed numerous twists, humour, sex, violence and a well-written script to produce a superbly entertaining film. Since then most teen efforts have been good-moraled, unoriginal and boring (eg. “Varsity Blues”, “Can’t Hardly Wait”).

Thank god for Roger Kumble, the writer-director has injected fresh blood into the quickly wilting trend and delivered the best film of the genre since “Wild Things” (though not as good as that film). “Cruel Intentions” is sexy, sassy, well-written, devilishly funny and downright entertaining. Why is it good? For several reasons – it’s not pretentious, politically correct, or moralistic; the characters are one-dimensional and have no desire to change, and the hero is somewhat of a prick.

For American filmmaking this is fairly new territory, the rest of the world has been doing it for years. The acting is good all round, “Buffy” star Sarah Michelle Gellar easily leading the main pack with a character that’s manipulative, cruel and determined – and you can tell she’s enjoying playing it as much as we enjoy watching it. Playing a comic angle for the most part, Ryan Phillipe takes a little getting used to.

At first the jokes don’t exactly gel with his kind of acting, but he gets better as the film progresses. Reese Witherspoon does well with the film’s ‘plain role’, turning a pretty much dull character into a fairly watchable one. But while Phillipe and Witherspoon are slightly lacking, they’re made up for by supporting performances from Selma Blair and Joshua Jackson.

Blair, playing the dimwitted, sexually innocent young debutante is hilarious – utilising a lot of physical humour quite well. Jackson’s cameo as a gay drug dealer is a little camp, but he does get to deliver one of the film’s best lines and makes better use of his screen time than he had in “Urban Legend”.

The plot maybe unoriginal, but the writing, the pace and the deliciously cynical flavour keep things moving fast and furiously. While it does lose a bit of steam in the last half-hour, it still has enough pep to close well – the ending has caused debate but I liked it. Compared with all the crappy teen flicks out at the moment, this is easily the leader of the pack.