Love Crimes (part 1)

There are movies on this list that are widely considered to be second rate. That's certainly true of a large number of the noir entries: Dark Passage, Cornered, Macao, for instance. It’s not that I think the criticisms are necessarily invalid; it’s that, for me, something else overrides - just what, depends on the individual film.

One movie that took a lot of heat is Love Crimes, directed by Lizzie Borden and released in 1992. This story of a prosecuting attorney's pursuit of a serial sexual predator was attacked for Borden’s direction, for the acting by leads Sean Young and Patrick Bergin, for its look, for its plot, and for its perceived message or lack thereof. I myself liked the movie because I felt that in all these areas, Borden pulled it off.

Love Crimes is generally labeled an “erotic thriller”. This is a category more or less defined by two fast, suspenseful, and entertaining blockbusters: Fatal Attraction, released 1987, and Basic Instinct, released a couple of months after Love Crimes. The Borden film does have something in common with these in that all three movies mark their territory at the crossroads of sex and violence, but anyone who goes to Love Crimes expecting a spin around the Attraction/Instinct block is just not going to get anything like that. Love Crimes is not running the same program.

Borden's movie has crime and suspense elements, but none of the razzle-dazzle of the typical erotic thriller. Love Crimes is a broody piece, the dark gritty look of which does justice to the intent. Likewise the ghostly performances of Young and Bergin, which would have gone down well if this had been a film by, say, Jean-Pierre Melville.

Then there are thematic issues. You’ve got Bergin on the shady side of the law and Young on the enforcement side. He is definitely a rotter, and she is not. But by the time they meet, it’s clear their brains have been scrambled by previous circumstances, and their relationship proceeds accordingly. Most viewers want clear good vs. bad in this sort of situation, or want the characters’ psychologies spelled out, one or the other. Borden gives you a bit of that but has little interest in making things tidy. Bergen and Young collide like two eggs headed for an omelet.

(To be continued.)