HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Bad Influence
HTS Overall Score:70
Remember the days of the erotic thriller? Back in the 80s and 90s they were all the rage. Michael Douglass made a pretty penny on the genre. However, there are a few long lost treasures of that era that are now just making their way to Blu-ray, and thanks to Shout Factory we get to see every entertaining James Spader and Rob Lowe as veritable babies in a cat and mouse game that just REEKS of 90s nostalgia. Rob Lowe had just been let off by a judge for his famous 1988 naughtiness and Spader was coming into his young spotlight at the time. Not to mention the fact that it was also the first major script by David Koepp, who would go on to write such miniscule films as “Jurassic Park”, “Mission Impossible”, “Spider-man” and countless others. Then tack on the little tidbit that director Curtis Hanson would soon go on to direct the film noir “L.A. Confidential” and “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”. With Rob Lowe under critical press due to his legal troubles as well as the infamous Oscar musical debacle (*shudder, I still remember seeing youtube videos of that) “Bad Influence” got smeared critically and pretty much overlooked by most people. Sadly it was a very competent thriller that shows off some great chemistry between the two male leads, and despite some overly hammy “erotic” overtones, it is a shame that it got passed over due to the bad publicity.
Despite being billed first and having the higher profile (both good and bad), Rob Lowe is not the titular character of the film. That would actually fall on the shoulders of a much younger and much trimmer James Spader than we’re used to today. Playing a mousy business executive named Michael Boll, Spader is given a mysterious role as a “money man” where we know little to nothing about his job despite the fact that he’s a complete milquetoast character who lets his fiancée, his boss and everyone else in the world walk all over him. After his co-worker steals the project that he’s working on for their own personal gain, Michael ends up in a dive bar where he’s about to get creamed by some guy when a handsome stranger steps in and saves him, only to disappear. Running into the man the next day Michael strikes up a conversation and is soon sucked into the world of one “Alex”, a drifter who seems to be the polar opposite of Michael. Confident, charming, able to get anything he wants, Alex acts as a lightning rod to Michael and the two soon form a weird friendship as Alex imparts his techniques to the mousy businessman.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70842[/img]However, as with all of these thrillers, Michael is soon in over his head. After ditching his fiancée and striking out on his own with his own charms and lies, Michael finds out that Alex is a bit more than he bargained for. Alex has all the control though, and as the newly birthed student finds out, he has NO intention of letting go without a fight. A few drunken nights of fun turn into robbing liquor stores, and beating up his annoying co-worker, and then when Michael puts his foot down, Alex’s more sinister side is revealed, framing him for murder and turning their friendship into a vicious rivalry that reveals more than a few similarities between two men.
A lot of older promo materials and articles tied to gussy up the movie by calling it a “Hitchock” style film, or a film Noir, but I would have to say that they are stretching the truth a bit. “Bad Influence” is really just a B rated thriller that is steeped with 90s tropes and stereotypes, and there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. In fact it really works as the sleazy and creepy nature of the two main character’s relationship fits in well with a B-rated movie. There’s nudity, there’s violence, there’s crime and there’s lots of betrayal to make this a delicious guilty pleasure. Spader and Lowe work really well together and their chemistry makes some of the unbelievable believable and cover up a few writing “sins”, so to speak. Alex is the perfect con man and grafter, able to conquer women with a wink and a smile, and get away with just about everything in the process. Spader stutters and stammers his way through the early part of the presentation, but is able to slip into the skin of the con man once his latent confidence is brought to the surface with relative ease. I laughed a few times at the old 90’s outfits and definitely rolled my eyes at how “suave” Alex was in the film, but in the end I was grinning from ear to ear and eating it all up.
Rated R for language, nudity and violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70850[/img]Given a theatrical 1.85:1 encode, “Bad Influence” looks like it was take from secondary elements, and while it doesn’t provide a leaps and bounds better transfer than the old MGM DVD, it certainly is the best the film has ever looked on home video. Colors are a bit muted and bland, and the dimness factor is cranked up a bit which results in some crushed blacks, while colors stay in a very neutral tone. Contrast is decently done and the picture shows off some very nice, in not mildly sharpened, grain structure reminiscent of late 80s/early 90s film stock. Fine detail is good, showing off more details than my old DVD did for certain, although the image remains mildly soft and hazy throughout much of the picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70858[/img]The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track is simplistic, but it certainly gets the job done without any major imperfections or dialog issues. Vocals are crisp and clear, locked up front in the mains, and the soundstage is decently expansive with some of the more exciting moments, such as when Michael and Alex rob a fast food store and a liquor shop. The gunshots and cars screeching along the streets show some good low end support, but the sound stage really opens up for the haunting 90s sound track that permeates the whole movie from beginning to end (one of the reason’s so many people try and label it as film noir). It’s not a wildly exciting surround track, but everything is clean and free of distortion, doing everything that it is called upon to do without question or flaws.
• Under the Influence with David Koepp – Interview with writer David Koepp
• Original Theatrical Trailer
Shout Factory (and their horror subsection Scream Factory) usually tends to pull out some of the really esoteric and eccentric films from the past, but “Bad Influence” is one of their better known and better DONE films in terms of reachability for more than a very niche audience. Spader is always welcome in any form, and even though Rob Lowe is out of the spotlight, it’s nice to see the famed playboy back on the silver screen once more. The Blu-ray itself is given a satisfactory set of audio and video specs and Shout Factory actually got MORE extras than the old DVD this time. The original MGM DVD only had the theatrical trailer, but Shout was able to get David Koepp to come and do a 30 minute interview for the new special edition Blu-ray. At the very least it’s worth a rental if you’ve never seen it and works as a great buy for those who love the old 90s thrillers.
Starring: Rob Lowe, James Spader, Lisa Zane
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: David Koepp
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 100 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 24th 2016
Buy Bad Influence On Blu-ray at Amazon
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