Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano
Directed By: Paul Brickman
Ploddingly paced and dull, Risky Business (1983) is a comedy so devoid of fun as to actually be depressing.
Tom Cruise shows star potential, though to assume in 1983 he could mature into one of the most bankable actors on the planet would require a serious leap of faith. He is quietly outshone by co-star Rebecca De Mornay, yet being as her performance is composed and sultry, but as a scheming hooker not even slightly believable, this makes Cruise’s future achievements all the more commendable.
Neither actor plays a character easy to warm to. Cruise as high-schooler Joel Goodson (his name the only enduring satirical snide on offer), zipping around campus in preppy threads, coasting his dad’s Porsche, parading his briefs, trying to make out he wants more than the copious cash he clearly enjoys; Joel is an annoying protagonist because he starts the movie with everything and just gets more.
Similarly, De Mornay’s Lana reveals herself as nothing above a trendily dressed prostitute able to make money off her colleagues in the sex trade. She is not likeable or compassionate and, like Joel, certainly no rocket scientist. Selling sex is the easiest thing in the world as there will always be someone willing to pay for it. We have no reason to be impressed by this, or even care. Rooting for these two currency junkies now would take more than just a love of Ray Ban Wayfarers and lofty stilettos; it would take a time machine.
The story too amounts to just one stretched episode of television. There is not enough plot here to fill forty minutes let alone ninety. Nonetheless as a capsule shot the broad eighties fashions are fun, Tangerine Dream’s score evocative, and that x-rated pop video sex scene still titillating – if a bit cringeworthy.
Really, however, for all the flash and garnish, Risky Business is nothing more than a capitalist wet dream; one that we have long since woken up from screaming.
© 2009 – 2012, Christopher Laverty.