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‘Bad Influence’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 10, 1990


Curtis Hanson
Rob Lowe;
James Spader;
Lisa Zane
Under 17 restricted

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"Bad Influence" represents a new Lowe in the career of brat pack pioneer Rob, the needle-nosed poseur, pretty boy punk and amateur pornographer. Yes, Lowe might have found his niche at long last as a spooky playboy pitted against a financial analyst in this warmed-over fast-lane suspense thriller. Leering 'n' sneering determinedly, Lowe is a Faustian Psycho Boy.

James Spader, the impotent voyeur of "sex, lies, and videotape," finds himself on the other side of the hand-held camera in this decidedly inferior variation on "Apartment Zero." David Koepp, the author of both movies, reuses the other thriller's premise here sans the homoerotica. This one too explores the seductiveness of evil and the bounds of morality via a relationship between a charming spider and a fastidious fly. But "Bad Influence" is less than "Zero," all too greasy and glib with its L.A. venue and commonplace production values. It's "Wall Street" with potholes, "Liar's Poker" with marked cards.

Michael (Spader) is a stereotypically ambitious and buttoned-down mid-level executive who is feeling pressure from his upcoming marriage to a Muffy and competition from his corporate nemesis. A sudden anxiety attack sends him scurrying to the beach, where he comes under the spell of the self-assured Alex (Lowe), a stranger who takes his side in a bar fight. Before you can say Bright Lights, Big City, Alex loosens Michael's straight laces, introducing him to the thrills of underground nightclubs, nose candy, drunk driving, easy women in black and convenience store robberies. Wow.

By the time Michael realizes that he has struck a bargain with El Diablo, there's a dead chippy in his bedroom and blood all over his nine-iron. Like his counterpart in "Apartment Zero," the terrified Alex gains freedom by turning his mentor's own methods against him. After all, there's sex to have, lies to tell, videotape to shoot and, yes, hell to pay.

A surprisingly tame and humorless effort by director Curtis Hanson of Hitchcock-spoofy "The Bedroom Window," the movie does provide a couple of good jolts. But in light of Lowe's real-life escapades, there's something unsavory about watching him writhe in a three-way sack thing with the camera rolling. Besides, we barely recognize him without his black modesty boxes.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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