A daring double-life leads a beautiful young woman down a silken path of sex, scandal and greed in this steamy, provocative thriller. Bank exec by day - high priced call girl by night, Alex gets in deeper than she ever imagined when she meets charismatic millionaire Bruno Buckingham and his stunning, enigmatic wife. Now, in a slow, exquisite seduction, Alex will be pulled into Buckingham's perverse world of fast-cash and kinky thrills - and into an ever telescoping money-laundering scheme that will bring her face to face with pure corruption - and the very depths of desire. Anne Heche, Christopher Walken, Joan Chen
Before Anne Heche came to prominence as the lover (and then ex-lover) of Ellen DeGeneres, she carved out a career as a sharp, intelligent actress, someone who could save a movie by appearing on the fringes, as in The Juror
, for instance. Mixed in with supporting roles were a few indie leads--Wild Side
is one of the latter, despite Heche's third billing. And a very strange item it is. Heche plays a banking go-getter who moonlights as a high-class call girl, with the movie hinting that the two professions may not be all that dissimilar. A liaison with a crooked financier (Christopher Walken in extremis) and later with his wife (Joan Chen) puts our heroine in a very confusing situation, especially when she gets in the way of a chauffeur/undercover cop/predator, played by Steven Bauer in high Eric Roberts mode. If the story is not always coherent, the actors nevertheless shoot off sparks, and the movie pulses with a weird energy all its own.
Wild Side was the last picture directed by Donald Cammell, whose 1970 film Performance (co-directed by Nicolas Roeg) is one of the defining films of its era. This cut of Wild Side is credited to the pseudonymous "Franklin Brauner" because Cammell was unhappy with the radical re-edit performed without his consent. A director's cut had been prepared, but Cammell did not live to see it. He committed suicide in 1996, leaving behind a very small output of films in his foreshortened career. Wild Side, even in its cut form, carries his signature traits of authentic disorientation and intense, twisted sex. And while it's a guaranteed perk for prurient viewers, the torrid coupling of Heche and Chen is just one equation in the film's convoluted sexual arithmetic. --Robert Horton