Friday 25 March 2011

Movie Review: Risky Business (1983)

Edgy, sleek and sexy, Risky Business ventured into rarely-explored territory and made Tom Cruise a star.

Teen-oriented comedies are supposed to follow a template of harmless if raunchy fun. Risky Business dares to go into much darker corners, with blatant profanity, steamy sex, prostitutes that are too attractive and even more likeable, dangerous pimps, and an ad-hoc brothel business designed to corrupt rich teenagers and separate them from their parents' money.

Add a Porsche that ends up in Lake Michigan, Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear, and Rebecca De Mornay as every teenagers' fantasy woman come true, and Risky Business threatens to sizzle right off the screen.

Joel Goodson (Cruise) is, naturally, a good son, a predictable, trusted teenager in suburban Illinois, hoping to get into Princeton upon graduation from high school. His parents go on vacation and leave him in charge of the large family house. Goaded by his friend Miles to take a more WTF (literally, the film is the spiritual godfather of the phrase) attitude to life, Joel is soon calling up prostitutes who do house calls. The first call girl to arrive is a guy; the second is Lana (De Mornay), and Joel soon owes her a lot of money. Lana takes off with a precious glass egg that is the pride of Joel's mom.

It's not long before Joel is tangling with Lana's pimp; and shortly thereafter Lana and her friends are setting up a thriving business in Joel's house. Meanwhile, Joel is getting himself into bigger trouble by dunking his dad's Porsche into the murky lake waters, sinking him deeper in debt. And he still needs to find a way to make a good impression on the Princeton recruiter coming to interview him.

The mess is both the end of Joel's old life and the beginning of his adulthood, and Risky Business works as parable for what it means to be a stereotypical adult male: simultaneously juggling trouble with women, trouble with cars, and trouble with money.

Paul Brickman directed his own script, and played up all his aces. Cruise is placed in the middle of the movie and allowed to transform on-camera from the hesitant teenager to the sharp business man, a perfect mirror for his life. De Mornay is a woman that can lead any teenager towards delightful moral ruin. And Brickman bathes the movie in an attractive outdoor darkness that promotes edgy but promising mystery.

Risky Business was a daring movie, but the handsome outcome meant that the risk paid off for audiences in terms of entertainment and for Cruise in terms of superstardom.

All Ace Black Movie Reviews are here.


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