Judas Kiss (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
As the film begins, a security guard is supposed to be paying attention to his video monitors, but is actually watching a porno video about lesbians from outer space. We watch along with him, but we don't just look over his shoulder to get a second hand view of what he sees on his tiny monitor, nor must we squint through the double pixilation of a video tape within a movie. Instead, we watch the porno movie as if we had rented it ourselves. It occupies our full screen, in top quality with lush production qualities, as if the lesbian alien porn were the movie we had rented. About a minute into the action, there is clear, well lit, full-frontal female nudity, followed by an energetic lesbian love scene aboard a cheesy spaceship that looks like a bad disco from the early 80s.
So right away we know we're not going to be watching "The Sweet Hereafter."
Was there any reason to picture the lesbian porn at length in high quality? None at all.
Now THAT's gratuitous nudity.
My kind of film.
From those first moments, Judas Kiss wants to tell you upfront that it is a guilty pleasure movie, pure and simple. Once you determine that it is not actually a movie about lesbians from outer space, you will see that it is one of those detective stories where ... well, at one point one of the characters turns to another and says, "There is really only one plot: "Nothing is as it seems.'"
It's that kind of movie.
What is it really about?
If the security guard had not been totally into space lesbians, he would have seen and/or reported a kidnapping. A band of four crazy criminals (who often spout faux-poetic dialogue) decide to kidnap a Bill Gates kind of guy, opting to demand a ransom exactly equal to the amount covered by his company's insurance. As predicted, the company has no problem forking over the money, but those darned law enforcement officials insist on taking the matter seriously, not in small part because the kidnappers managed to shoot and kill a witness on their way out, and that witness happened to be the wife of a U.S. Senator. Oops! Murder and kidnapping come under separate jurisdictions, so a cop and an FBI agent must work together on the case. Alan Rickman is the cop assigned to the murder investigation, and Emma Thompson is the federal agent in charge of the kidnapping. You must be thinking, "Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman? So this takes place in Manchester, or London, or someplace like that?"
You're close. New Orleans.
Yup, Em and Rickman spend the entire film trying to speak in Paul Prudhomme accents, y'betcha. As it turns out, they did reasonably well. Their speech did slip out of Louisiana now and then, but they generally managed to cover up their British roots. When they messed up, it was usually to draw out an American "r", which made them sound like cops visiting The Big Easy from Minneapolis. To tell you the truth, their accents didn't really matter very much, because they are both good actors who brought wit and quirky intelligence to their parts, so the film was much better with them than it would have been with two ordinary actors with perfect accents.
The film takes a lot of twists and turns, and involves a lot of secrets. Rickman somehow figures out what is really going on, which is amazing because even the criminals are not completely sure, but he can't pursue the case directly because a lot of people in very important positions don't actually want him to solve the crime. Instead they want him to follow some planted clues and solve the apparent crime, which is actually only a mammoth distraction from what is really going on. So Rickman has to skulk around in the background and solve the crime indirectly.
Don't fret if it sounds too complicated. Judas Kiss is not one of those way-too-confusing stories. In fact, the only reason we are ever confused at all is because we don't know all the details, but the whole scheme makes some sense once the smoke and mirrors are removed, so the story plays out as a pleasurable noir. It is not an ultra-realistic and gritty film, but rather the stylish type of noir in which the complicated story is really of secondary importance when contrasted to the witty and philosophical exchanges between the characters. Rickman and Em provide humorous and literary banter throughout their pursuit, and even the criminals are quirky and articulate. Carla Gugino is an absolute treasure.
A couple of years ago there was a movie called "Real Women Have Curves." I haven't see it, but if its title represents an accurate statement, then a picture of Gugino should be used as the scientific symbol for reality. Her lush, curvaceous figure and innate sexiness combine with a kind of sweet Sally Field wholesomeness and a deceptive intelligence to make her kind of like Salma Hayek without the accent. She is the perfect femme fatale for the film noir genre except that audiences would normally have a hard time accepting her as a calculating schemer. In this film, however, her girl-next-door vulnerability worked to her advantage because the script actually required her to teeter on the tightrope between the roles of criminal and victim. Yes, she was a bad girl - but one with a conscience and a good heart who eventually ends up as the hero of the story, even though it was she who killed the Senator's wife and first turned the intended comical lark into a bloodbath!
How could that be? Oh, it's complicated and delicious, but you'll have to watch the movie to find out!
From the opening sex scene between lesbians from outer space, to the banter between Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as cynical Louisiana cops, Judas Kiss is a great guilty pleasure film. It went straight to video in the USA, and it is difficult to find, but you should look for it if you love a sleazy, twisty R-rated noir. It's a terrific guilty pleasure film.
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