Sony // 1999 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // June 14th, 2007
"We've done some pretty f***ed up sh*t in our time, but this...I mean, we're destroying an innocent girl. You do realize that?"
All right folks, please file into the small claims court for this case; this won't take long. Due to an overflow in the docket at the juvenile courtroom down the hall, we'll be assisting with the proceedings involving underage offenses temporarily. This brings us to a case that involves indiscretions provoked by the unchecked indulgences of the immature libido exacerbated by a lack of parental upbringing. More succinctly, this is a matter of horny kids and their alleged lack of appropriateness and accountability for their actions. These "child" defendants are hardly childlike yet neither are they adult in their intellects (and it's doubtful this court can prove the defendants even possess anything remotely resembling logic or reason). Yet, here we have a most extreme case of personal conspiracies, sexual indiscretions, and aberrant self-aggrandizing.
Kathyrn (Sarah Michelle Geller, Scooby-Doo) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe, Breach) are two teen stepsiblings that make a hobby of dabbling in the debauchery that is insincere and manipulative sexual encounters with others, intended to simply satisfy their own unscrupulous ideas of "entertainment." The greater game, of course, is for Kathryn to keep Sebastian panting, he is perpetually insatiable until he can fulfill his carnal hunger for his stepsister. But since she's not giving in to Sebastian's advances, Kathryn has decided to establish a new challenge for the smooth-skinned, pouting-lipped boy. Stinging from being dumped by her recent boyfriend, Kathryn tempts Sebastian to deflower the naïve Cecile (Selma Blair, A Guy Thing), newest girlfriend to her ex-beau. But Sebastian sees this as a lowbrow effort from him, he having conquered all worthwhile female targets within the upper-end Manhattan locale, and determines to deflower the publicly virginal Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon, Best Laid Plans), daughter to the university's headmaster. Kathryn thinks Sebastian has overestimated his own sexual potency with this one and bets he cannot bed Annette, a loss that will cost him his coveted 1956 Jaguar Roadster. If he succeeds, though, Kathryn agrees to succumb to Sebastian's physical lusts. The two bubble with competitive excitement and set about to destroy the lives and reputations of others to indulge their own selfish whims. Of course, the two are so blinded by their own self-assuredness that they never anticipate the impact of a third player that may hold a trump card.
And, ladies and gentlemen, someone thought this sordid little tale could be passed off to our own children as "entertainment." Attempting to hide behind the guise of being an adaptation of 1782's Les liaisons dangereuses (aka "Dangerous Liaisons"), this is nothing more than a naughty kiddie-sex film that exists as a sort of NickTeen production...on ecstasy. It wants so badly to come off as soulless and corrupt as its 16th Century inspiration yet the dialog and delivery of such is so inept it seems like a poorly executed high school play that leaves parents ashamed and grandparents appalled. Neither Gellar nor Phillippe can deliver their lines in anything close to convincing, coming off as stilted and self-conscious for the entire duration. While both are somewhat attractive, neither are the Venus or Adonis they purport to be. And, as the plot takes them through a series of unabashed antics of sexuality, it makes for a very unbecoming outing that never succeeds to tease nor titillate. The greatest irony of this needless little endeavor comes when Phillippe, as Sebastian, proclaims, "E-mail is for geeks and pedophiles." Arguably, this particular film is likewise aimed a those who might find pleasure in ogling young people, either from the safety of a computer monitor or from the remote-controlled convenience of a home video presentation. To this point, the film itself is a sordid affair that exploits its young cast of characters to pique the pornographic interests of whoever might be leering. Disgraceful.
It's confusing, then, that Sony would elect to include this film in its as-young Blu-ray library. Cruel Intentions is given the high-definition gloss as if it were a notable title, but why? The transfer is a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that, while it does deliver a clear image, the result is not very impressive. The source material is quite clean yet it wavers in its own inherent design that skews detail and shifts color tone and depth. Ultimately, it looks only about as good as an upscaled Standard Definition DVD playback and, for this, it makes this disc an under-serving HD presentation. The audio is provided in an uncompressed PCM 5.1 (and well as the usual Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative) but, again due to the original production design, the soundstage is constrained and lacks the dynamics usually expected in an HD setting. Extras are the same as those previously offered on 1999's SD release, including a chatty audio commentary with the filmmakers, a couple of fluffy featurettes, some inconsequential deleted scenes, and a couple of music videos. This said, and given the lacking improvement in video and audio quality, it's difficult to recommend a purchase of this particular release.
In the end, Cruel Intentions is a very forgettable and even frustrating experience in the realm of extreme youth sex culture. It's impossible to believe this is any sort of attitudinal barometer of the younger set -- both from 1999 to present day -- and the cast simply isn't as sexy as they believe themselves to be. The result is an embarrassing two hours that will leave you apathetic, not aroused.
Guilty! Court adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos
* Standard Definition DVD Review