The Last Seduction (1994)

Directed by John Dahl. Written by Steve Barancik.

Thrillers often feature bad people in the shape of murderers, crooks, and conspirators, but it’s rare to be treated to someone who belongs in a horror movie due to their remorseless nature and willingness to put themself before everyone and everything. Bridget, the literal femme fatale of The Last Seduction, is such a person, an all-time villainess you’d hate to root for if it wasn’t because her enemies and victims are no better, and only worse at what they do.  

In the shape of Linda Fiorentino, she’s the representation of a cutthroat city dweller who tries to lay low in upstate New York after backstabbing her partner (in crime) following a lucrative drug deal. It’s bumpkin land, and to see her park her car, saunter into the local dive bar and antagonize everyone and not give a shit is like watching an alligator flop onto a beach chair and refuse to budge, despite someone already having put down a towel. 

Therein lies the thrill of Dahl’s movie, this incessant arrogance in a cat-and-mouse game that’s solely concerned with whether Bridget gets her way or not, dismissing any possibility of her pondering the morality of what she’s doing. Fiorentino hams it up to match the outsized assholery and is believable as someone without penance. She won’t just chew you up and spit you out, she’s sending you right down a sewer grate when she does it. 

Peter Berg is Mike Swale, a small town boy who believes himself destined for bigger things. He’s taken in by Bridget’s alien nature and the big city life she represents. He’s a goober, true small fry, and he’d be pitiful if it wasn’t because of his arrogance. As I said, it doesn’t pain you too much to root for Bridget. Swale is great, though. It requires something special to commit to dweebness, but Swale does it. 

Opposite each other, they’re such clear representatives of the city/country dichotomy and the skewed prejudices each side has against the other. She’s arrogant and condescending, committed to succeeding for the sake of succeeding with little thought to the consequences of that success. He’s moralizing, fake-sincere, and secretly envious of Bridget’s character even as he denounces it. Yokel attitudes are also lampooned in Barancik’s script, like the following exchange between Bridget and a concerned receptionist:

Receptionist: “There was a black man here to see you.”

Bridget: “What did he want?”

Receptionist: “He didn’t say. He was black, though.” 

Next to Bridget, there’s a second star: an incredible score by Joseph Vitarelli. Jazzy, real smooth, sophisticated. It’s as if only Bridget can hear it, lending her the confidence to master the world the way she does. It departs from the usual thriller formula by shying away from icy strings, even if there’s plenty in The Last Seduction that would justify it, and instead lends credence to Bridget’s scheming. 

The music carries The Last Seduction along with such suave pizzazz that you almost forget it’s bookended by some lazy writing to begin and some crass insensitivity to finish where bigotry rears its ugly head, leaving you with a bitter aftertaste from what’s otherwise a fun outing in association with a an antihero who has few equals. 

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