Cruel Intentions v Dangerous Liaisons
Wouldn’t it be great if these two movies combined their powers to create the ultimate action flick? ‘This Fall… Steven Seagal has… DANGEROUS INTENTIONS.’ In the meantime, pick your favourite.
Ross McD: Cruel Intentions
My triumph isn’t over her. It’s over you
Nowadays, pointless remakes are almost a movie industry to themselves. You only have to look as far as 2006’s The Omen, 2005’s The Amityville Horror and 1998’s Psycho to see that filmmakers are happy to retread a classic without offering anything new or fresh or even a reason for doing so. In fact, films don’t even have to be old to be remade any more - the green paint was barely dry on Eric Bana’s Hulk before Edward Norton was pulling on a pair of purple pants. And have you heard they’re remaking Short Circuit? Is nothing sacred?
Cruel Intentions does not fall into this category. Les Liaisons Dangereuses was due a remake, because frankly, the first attempt was a little boring. In the spirit of Ross v Ross, lets see how the respective characters match up:
1. John Malkovich’s Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont versus Ryan Phillippe’s Sebastian Valmont
The big difference between the Valmonts is Phillippe is a bit of a prick, but Malkovich is a right c**t. Phillippe’s arrogance is delightful: you feel he’d have done well in life with or without his privileged upbringing, but Malkovich’s power comes solely from his dineros. Phillippe makes his ability to talk women into bed believable, while Malkovich is more or less just a rapist. Case in point: The ‘I’ll leave if you let me kiss you’ trick – Ryan’s blasé manipulation of Cecile (‘I don’t want to kiss you here, I want to kiss you… down there.’), compared to John’s ‘um, I’m just gonna rape you, ok?’
2. Glenn Close’s Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil versus Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Kathryn Merteuil
Glenn’s not bad looking for an oul one, but I think Sarah makes the more believable prize. Why would Malkovich’s Valmont want to shag his wife anyway? Gellar pulls off the manipulative bitch to perfection and with ease, with a simple roll of her eyeballs she manages what Close needs a whole scene to spell out (‘I am cruel, don’t you know?’). And let’s not forget the spit-string kiss.
3. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Madame Marie de Tourvel versus Reese Witherspoon’s Annette Hargrove
OK, Michelle might be a bit hotter, but she’s just weird in this film. Her swooning and fainting and aghast looks are annoying to the point of wishing her eventual death, which just doesn’t come quick enough. Witherspoon’s character is almost equally as annoying, but we are too distracted trying to work out how she managed to bag the smoking hot Ryan Phillippe in real life that we don’t begrudge her ultimate survival.
4. Uma Thurman’s Cécile de Volanges versus Selma Blair’s Cecile Caldwell
5. Keanu Reeves’ Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny v Sean Patrick Thomas’ Ronald Clifford
At what point did Keanu Reeves become accepted as an A-list actor? Every film, every scene he appears in, he looks like he’s about to say ‘woah’ or ‘dude’ or ‘I know kung fu’, and Dangerous Liaisons is no exception. Thomas’ attraction to Cecile is believable: I’m not sure if Reeves even registers Cécile’s presence. Danceny’s swordfight is a bit better than Clifford’s roadside handbags, though.
6. Swoosie Kurtz’s Madame de Volanges versus Christine Baranski’s Bunny Caldwell
Another non contest. Baranski’s Bunny Caldwell and her racist lols are fantastic, from claiming she took qualified music teacher Ronald Clifford off the streets, to putting him in his place by revealing she gave money to Colin Powell. Her sheer horror that her daughter is seeing someone so ‘Black!… brown sugar…. no sugar’ (as her coffee arrives) – brilliant. The wonderfully named Swoosie does get a bonus point however for appearing in both films.
Besides having better characters on all accounts, don’t forget that the main theme of both films is sex. And it’s simply not believable that two people could maintain their horniness after a hour-and-a-half of petticoat unbuttoning, corset unlacing and wig removing: how they even found each other’s bodies under all that clothing is a mystery to me.
Ross McG: Dangerous Liaisons
I’ve distilled everything to one single principle: win or die
Cruel Intentions is a good film. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a great nasty bitch and Ryan Phillippe’s serial-shagging manipulator is fun to watch. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a bad remake. It’s certainly no Planet Of The Apes, that’s for sure. However, it really cannot help being good, since it is a reworking of one of the finest films of the 80s.
Dangerous Liaisons is sumptuous. Essentially, it is just two characters talking to one another for two hours, but as those characters are played by Glenn Close and John Malkovich (both at the top of their game) the film is an entertaining feast. This banquet is served up by a versatile director in Stephen Frears, who lets a great cast (Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman are also present) shine. Like many good films, it even manages to sustain a catacylsmically bad Keanu Reeves performance.
Cruel Intentions, while often amusing, is largely pre-packaged teen pap, one of those movies where the soundtrack was finalised before the script – Counting Crows, Placebo… whatever crap music was popular that week. It also has no heart. Phillippe’s character’s dramatic about-turn as he begins to grow a conscience should engage the viewer but comes off clumsy, while it’s hard to give a toss for Reese Witherspoon’s bland blonde heroine.
It’s a film that will be remembered for a saliva-tastic girl-on-girl kiss and nothing more. Dangerous Liaisons will be remembered for Close giving her greatest performance. Her vicious Marquise de Merteuil would have Buffy for breakfast. She makes Gellar look like Goldilocks. Shudder as she declares battle against Valmont here (at 4m00). This is a stunning portrayal of a cold-hearted bitch of the highest order. And yet she is also fabulously human, elevating the film to a level Cruel Intentions can’t possibly reach. Just watch how she shows her true face in the film’s ending below.
Close may go down in history for her role as the babe who boiled the bunny, but in Dangerous Liaisons she cooks up arguably one of the finest female lead performances of the past 25 years. She is scintillating, compelling and brilliant to watch. Just like the film itself.