Double Feature

May 2022 - William Hurt died recently, just a week before he would have turned 72. He made his big screen debut in 1980's Altered States. The career that followed included an Oscar win for Best Actor in Kiss of the Spider Woman and an Oscar nomination for Broadcast News”. Here are a couple of my other favorite William Hurt films.

Think of the word "hot" – or any synonym – and you have a word that describes Body Heat, a 1981 R-rated classic from writer/director Lawrence Kasdan. Hurt stars with Richard Crenna and Ted Danson, but Kathleen Turner steals the show in her big-screen debut.

Hurt plays Ned Racine, a chain-smoking, small-time defense lawyer in south Florida, where it's hotter than it's ever been before. One muggy night, he catches a glimpse of trophy wife Matty Walker, looking cool and crisp in a white dress. They embark on a torrid affair and plot to kill Matty's mean old husband (Crenna). But, once the deed is done, the heat really gets turned up. Ned realizes that the cops suspect him of the crime, and then he realizes, too late, that that's exactly how Matty planned it.

Overall review: Loved it! From beginning to end, everything about this movie says "hot." The opening scene shows a sweaty, post-coital Ned in his boxers watching from his bedroom as a restaurant burns in the distance. His gal-pal comments, "It's hot." Hurt just drips sex and sweat in practically every scene he's in, Turner perfects the smoldering glance, and a soundtrack of sultry saxophone music ensures that the heat won't die down. Add a constant cloud of lingering cigarette smoke, and you can practically feel the stifling atmosphere through the screen. Poor Ned. The only opportunity he has to cool down is when he's put on ice – behind bars.

A couple years later, Hurt again found himself left out in the cold in the R-rated Gorky Park. Lee Marvin, Joanna Pacula and Brian Dennehy co-star in this suspense-filled drama from 1983.

Hurt plays Renko, the top police detective in Moscow. When a patrolman discovers three bodies buried in the city's Gorky Park, Renko gets the call. But, before he can even begin to investigate, the KGB show up. They hand the case to Renko, but he soon realizes that it's more than just a straightforward case of murder. It's a conspiracy that threatens to draw Renko into its deadly web of corruption.

Overall review: Liked it. I seem to recall seeing this movie in the theater when it first came out. I thought it was pretty good, but watching it all these years later, I feel like maybe that initial reaction was a little too enthusiastic. It's not a bad film, but it's longer and more convoluted than it needed to be, I think. There's also the matter of the accents. For the most part, the actors who play Russians speak in British accents. I guess that's so they won't be confused with the actors who play Americans and speak in American accents. But, Hurt's "British" accent is really weird and affected. I found it distracting.