Warner Bros. // 1983 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 16th, 2008
Miles: Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, "What the f -- k." "What the f -- k" gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future. Say "what the f -- k."...If you can't say it, you can't do it.
When I was gazing at the hundreds of DVDs in my collection one day I started to think about titles given short shrift when originally released. Risky Business jumped out at me, a bare bones disc in a cardboard snapper case. The 1983 movie turned the then little known Tom Cruise of Taps in to a star, and it remains one of the best dark comedies ever filmed. Most people see it as an example of the '80s raunchy comedy teen flick like Porky's, but the whole thing holds up as so much more. Dark and sexy, they just don't dare to make teen comedies this smart or this...well...risky.
Chicago senior Joel Goodsen (a 19-year-old Tom Cruise) is an industrious, serious upper-class suburban son who is about to be left alone by his parents for a few days. What could possibly go wrong? He has mom and dad's huge house, his father's Porsche in the garage, and some disposable cash. He ends up hiring a local call girl named Lana (Rebecca de Mornay, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), and soon a business opportunity arises that Joel can't resist. Lana will hook up her prostitute friends with Joel's horny high school rich boys, and together they will make enough money to fund his planned Ivy League education. But the ingenious pair are about to be faced by a car driven into a lake and an angry pimp who is intent on ruining the spoils of the good times.
Risky Business is a true blue teen sex comedy, but its insights inside the mind of a white bread 17-year-old boy feel explosively real. Back in 1983, the film seemed to be known as the smartest black comedy about adolescent sexual fantasies to come along since The Graduate. It was also iconic for the "Old Time Rock and Roll" image of Cruise in his white briefs and Ray-Ban Wayfarers dancing in an empty living room. Written and directed by Paul Brickman (who never did much after the film), Risky Business plays out as if Michael Mann had decided to venture in to John Hughes territory. Everything is stylized to the point of absurdity during even the most intimate moments, as if it was coming right out of a high school boy's fevered dream. It's all about the Tangerine Dream score, '80s fashions, dirty Prince music, horny kids, and vengeful hookers out to get them. You couldn't make the film today as the abysmal and neutered Girl Next Door proved by ripping off the plot and sweetening it up for this decade. No, this one could only come out of a Reagan era.
For Risky Business's 25th anniversary, Warner Bros. has finally released a fully loaded disc. On the feature proper, we get a full length commentary from lead actor Tom Cruise, writer/director Paul Brickman, and producer Jon Avnet. They are congenial and seem to remember making the film quite clearly. Oddly enough they giggle when they realize they told Tom Cruise to "go crazy on the couch." There is a 30-minute retrospective featurette that features all of the commentary participants interviewed today as well as other stars and crew members including some who had nothing to do with the original production. Surprisingly enough, we get to see Rebecca de Mornay looking hot still, Cameron Crowe rhapsodizing on the poetry of the film, Amy Heckerling offering her opinion, costar Brosnon Pinchot, Joe "Guido, the killer pimp" Pantoliano, and Curtis "Booger" Armstrong. Between these two supplements, we get the whole story of how the film was made, and some insights into how these legends feel it has held up. Also included are original screen test footage, the director's version of the final scene, which ends on a much more downbeat note, and a vintage trailer. The image has been remastered for a simultaneous BluRay release, and the soundtrack has been remixed for a five channel speaker mix. The results are amazing, especially when compared to the previous release. This is one where double dipping is not even worth a debate.
If you weren't a teenage boy in the '80s, this film probably won't have the same impact it will on guys who are members of Generation X. To the Gen Y eye it will seem like just something to file between Fast Time at Ridgemont High and The Last American Virgin. Satire doesn't work as well when we take out the current era, and teen movies that hinge on fashion trends and slang always date horribly. This one isn't as bad as some thanks to a more subdued sense of fashion, classic rock, and less affinity for showing dated technology. But you can't miss the shoulder pads and the huge cordless phones complete with cordless antennas.
Risky Business defined an era, created a star, and showed us teen comedies could be sexy and adult. It's very '80s, but even after 25 years, you have to admire their guts to do a cautionary tale about sex and greed.It is a teen art house movie, shot with a refined, unapologetic style. What makes it amazing is it is not scrubbed clean and dumbed down for kids, and it's disheartening to see how far backwards we've come today. This is certainly a collector's dream come true to finally have a blinged out version of Risky Business with a stellar transfer and meaty extras. You've gotta get this one even though it is some kind of artsy fartsy thing. Time of your life, huh kid?
Guilty of becoming a modern classic. One of the best black comedies of our time, Risky Business finally gets its due on DVD.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary with Actor Tom Cruise, Writer/Director Paul Brickman, and Producer Jon Avnet
* New 25th Anniversary Retrospective
* Original Screen Tests
* Director's Cut of Final Scene
* Theatrical Trailer