Artisan // 1999 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // March 28th, 2000
"When it comes to love, no two memories are the same."
Lured Innocence, or should I say Lurid Innocence is a wannabe film-noir that is part Body Heat, part Lolita, and a big part Diabolique. If only the filmmakers had chosen to mimic the good parts of those films.
Anyway, Lured Innocence is the story of Elsie Townsend (Marley Shelton), a small town girl who has to care for her sick mother and work as a waitress in a diner. She desperately wants out of Mississippi and a chance for a better life. Enter Rick Chambers (Dennis Hopper), a local business man who also has someone in his life he devotes a great deal of time to giving care to, his wife, Martha (Talia Shire). They have a loveless marriage -- a marriage that was basically built on Rick waiting for Martha to die so he can have control of her insurance and trust.
In Elsie, Rick sees a kindred spirit, not to mention a nubile beauty, lonely and bored with small town life. They begin an affair that grows to obsession on Rick's part. He is convinced he needs more of Martha's money to keep Elsie in his life. Martha is told of Elsie and arranges a meeting between the two. Martha confides in Elsie that she fears for her life. Elsie says she has grown tired of Rick as well and maybe there is something the two of them can do about his presence in their lives. Through all of this, there is another love triangle between a local high school senior, Elden Tolbert (Devon Gummersall) and Elsie. Events occur as they are supposed to in this kind of film and someone ends up dead. The film jumps back and forth eight years in time. In current time, Elden is an Arizona news reporter and is sent back to his hometown to cover the trial that has finally occurred for the murder victim. It is an action between Elsie and Elden that occurred eight years ago that puts Elden on the witness stand with the key to proving Elsie's guilt or innocence. But did this event really happen or not?
If the plot synopsis above sounds convoluted, well, so is the movie. I kept thinking during the film itself and the director's commentary (I know...I can't believe I sat through this twice either) that there were enough potboiler plots going to keep a soap opera in business for a couple of years. And like a television soap opera, all the sex is implied, used as a tease. If you listen to the commentary you will find out that the reason there was no nudity is because actress Shelton would not allow it. I'm not one for gratuitous anything, but the whole reason for the plot to move forward is sex. The viewer needs to understand what fuels Chambers' desire and that is just not there. We see lots of fake sweat but nothing that causes it. Although I suppose one should be thankful for small favors, if we had seen Shelton nude that probably would mean we would have to see Hopper naked as well...and I just ate.
It is never a good sign when a film is told in flashbacks and the same actors are playing the same roles, back and forth. Nothing about the actors and their performances change. They are the same eight years ago as they are in "real time."
Speaking of performances, well, none of them are very good. Hopper brings nothing we have not seen from him over and over through the years. Call it method over-acting. Shelton is passable at best and she is fortunate the camera loves her so. I never thought Talia Shire was a very good actress, and after watching this I don't have to change my mind.
As for the disc itself, Artisan gives us a full frame version only and it's a competent transfer. The colors are all pretty solid and detail is strong. On the sound end, Lured Innocence is given a 5.1 remix and, while that is always a good thing, I don't know why they did it. The surrounds are almost never used. Everything is dialogue driven and comes from the front speakers. A big "so what?"
The main feature here is a screen specific commentary track from director Kikuo Kawasaki. I had never heard of Kawasaki before and after watching this movie I understood why. The commentary track is like the film itself: long and boring. From it, we learn the reason Hopper was cast is because the director had seen him in another movie that had the same basic premise, i.e. him falling for a much younger woman. And people say creative types have no original ideas anymore. We also learn that the reasons SNL regular Cheri Oteri has a role: because the casting director told Kawasaki to use her, and because she is so short and Shelton is so tall.
Other special features include trailers, 20 chapters with motion images (!) and of course, bios of actors and filmmakers you will never want to hear from again.
If you have gathered from this review that Lured Innocence is not very good and everyone should stay away from it, good for you. If you have not picked up on that, well, maybe you will enjoy it.
Director Kawasaki is convicted of not knowing a piece of garbage when he sees one and forbidden by this court to ever pick up a camera again. Actor Hopper is told to watch fellow performer Jack Nicholson on how to mix things up every now and then so audiences don't get bored seeing the same old thing every time. And Artisan is asked to show better judgment on the products it releases. Thank you members of the jury, your duty is done. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Talent Files