The Right Temptation

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The Right Temptation

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Superb recent variations such as Croupier and A Simple Plan aside, the very concept of the contemporary neo-noir seems inherently flawed. After all, can the illicit deeds that are the genre's stock-in-trade really possess any sort of transgressive power in an era where sex, betrayal, and adultery are fodder for daytime television, magazines, and congressional inquiry? Still, the genre's glamorous iconography and highly exploitable narrative elements (illicit sex, double-crosses, and sultry vixens) remain irresistible to filmmakers, which means video stores are cluttered with listless films like The Right Temptation. Offering a gender-switched variation on that old pulp standby, the detective who gets too close to the person he's supposed to tail, Temptation stars Rebecca De Mornay as a light-averse policewoman who dramatically resigns from the force after a bungled raid. Now a private investigator, De Mornay is hired by socialite Dana Delany, first to follow her wealthy husband (Kiefer Sutherland) and then to sleep with him. A predictable web of seduction, betrayal, and murder ensues, but since the characters register as nothing more than paper-thin noir archetypes, the film never connects on an emotional level. As with far too many neo-noirs, the players here exist to serve the iconic genre conventions—half-drawn shades, cigarettes, carefully orchestrated posing and pouting—rather than the other way around. The Right Temptation gets the look right, but comes up fatally short of heart, brains, and soul.

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