John Hughes and his feel good Brat Pack films in the mid-80s were full of pop songs and boys gushing and lusting over Molly Ringwald. Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club and even Weird Science were safe PG inspired films about how social outcasts were really cooler than the popular kids in high school. These films were led to what we thought was the cultural nadir of St. Elmo’s Fire which tried to move beyond high school into the real world except Bad Influence slams shut that era with a dark tale of what happens when your inspiring new friend can truly change your life around. James Spader (Pretty in Pink) and Rob Lowe (St. Elmo’s Fire) were about to depart from the land of Hughes in an extremely dark buddy comedy.
Michael Boll (Spader) is a major nerd. He’s a number cruncher at the firm who doesn’t have the balls to not take crap from his co-workers or people in general. He’s a victim in waiting. While enjoying a drink at a bar, he seems to have made a connection with a woman on the stool nearby. However her angry boyfriend arrives. When Michael makes a feeble attempt to get the guy to back down, things heat up quick. In the midst of a moment where his glasses are about to get busted wide open, Michael is saved by Alex (Lowe). Before the two can truly bond, Alex has vanished along with Michael’s wallet. Michael finds himself at work the victim of co-worker messing with his reports. They’re both up for a major promotion so this gamesmanship is not good. How is he going to impress John de Lancie (Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation) with frat boy stunts? His only friend is his brother. The guy is fighting his drug addiction so he’s not exactly a party. His fiance (Marcia Cross) has way too much of her life mapped out that he’s just notes in her Day Planner. He needs to live a little. Thankfully he crosses paths with Alex once more and the duo take off on a wild adventure. Except instead of the goofy stuff dished out by John Hughes, Michael gets to do such outlandish things as go to underground clubs, pick up cool women, make adult tapes, drunk drive, do drugs, rob liquor stores, beat down pesky co-workers, ruin an engagement party and commit a homicide or two. Turns out that Alex is more than a life coach, he’s a homicidal maniac who won’t back down. Michael is going to have to become a new man if he’s going to survive his new best friend.
This could have easily turned into a lame and forgettable post-Hughes Brat packer flick like Fresh Horses (remember that Pretty in Pink reunion?). But director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and David Koepp (Jurassic Park) create an atmosphere that takes the action into the end of the ’80s. They don’t back off from the darkness. Luckily Spader is able to switch up because in the Brat Pack world, he was the douchebag pretty boy. He’s convincing as the insecure numbers nerd who wants to enjoy all that can be offered in Los Angeles at the end of the ’80s. He wants to hook up with the alluring woman at the party. The film also lets him sort of revisit his breakout role in Sex, Lies, and Videotape when Rob Lowe puts him on a home video camera for a session with Lisa Zane (Monkeybone). This is my favorite Rob Lowe performance. He nails the psycho nature of Alex. This is a guy who seems like he’d be your partner in crime until you realize he’s serious about the crime element. Lowe is a natural when he goes full psycho on the screen. He is American Psycho here. This is the best thing he did until those Direct TV ads. Bad Influence slams shut the Brat Pack era without a slight hint of nostalgia. This is the perfect film that makes you question your exciting new friend’s real motivations.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the fun of living the wild life in Los Angeles at the end of the ’80s. The Tar Pits look extra gooey with the enhanced resolution. The audio is DTS-HD MA Stereo. You’ll get the peppy soundtrack and creepy moments in a fine mix. The movie is subtitled.
Under the Influence (29:04) is a new interview with writer David Koepp. He talks about how he wrote this script because he wanted to see the movie and didn’t imagine it as a crowd pleaser. It’s a rather enlightening talk about his career as a screenwriter.
Trailer (1:56) sets up the movie just right.
Shout! Factory presents Bad Influence. Directed by: Curtis Hanson. Screenplay by: David Koepp. Starring: Rob Lowe, James Spader & Lisa Zane. Running Time: 99 minutes. Rated: R. Released: May 10, 2016.
Tags: Bad Influence, James Spader, Rob Lowe