Cruel Intentions v Dangerous Liaisons

Border cruelWouldn’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.


Reese's willy was bigger, and they both knew it

4. Uma Thurman’s Cécile de Volanges versus Selma Blair’s Cecile Caldwell

 No competition here, Blair’s Cecile is the highlight of Cruel Intentions. Her ditsy naivety never fails to draw a smile, from her sexy poses, to her fellatio offers, from her love of secret societies to her sleepover suggestions, she is as adorable as her Australian koala T-shirt. Uma on the other hand moves from being repulsed by Valmont to attracted a little too quickly for my liking, but my word, what an awesome set of norks. I never realised Uma was built so well until I saw this film.

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.

(Oh, spoiler)

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.

Uma tries to keep a straight face as Keanu gives his co-stars some acting tips

Keanu's co-stars listened intently as he gave them some acting tips

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.


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5 Responses to “Cruel Intentions v Dangerous Liaisons”

  1. fandangogroovers Says:

    Agreed Selma Blair is the highlight of the film so believable in the part I was amazed when told she was actually 27 at the time (its true I looked it up) a full five years older than co star Sarah Michelle Gellar. The film is actually head and shoulders above your average 90’s teen movie (although not as good as the best the 80’s had to offer) but it is just that a teen movie with lots of good looking kids (who aren’t really kids) doing whatever the hell they like. It’s Beverly Hills 90210 with added sex and drugs. The reason Dangerous Liaisons is so much better is simply the most amazing cast giving some of the best performances of their careers.

  2. Yes it had a great cast but I found Dangerous liaisons a very dull film!

    I thought Cruel Intentions was going to be another dull teen movie but it was so, so, so, much better than that due to Sarah Michelle Gellar giving a superb acting performance and definitely the coolset bitch in any film ever!

  3. I haven’t seen dangerous liasons but I was shocked by hoe good cruel intentions is! It was jsut on lat one night and I was channely hopping but I got hooked. That last scene still gives me goosebumps, great work by Sarah Michelle Geller and brilliant use of music. I’m not exactly qualified to vote but Cruel Intentions really surprised me and I don’t think Dangerous Liasons will beat that.

  4. fangirl9 Says:

    i couldn’t agree with you more….. except the thing about Keanu Reeves. He is the man! and dangerous liasons just proved on film he can sword fight better than anyone heh heh

  5. Coffeecrimson Says:

    I found your comments on Dangerous Liasions and Cruel Intentions very interesting but did you know there was another film based on Dangerous Liasions called Valmont. It starred Annette Bening and Colin Firth. It was made the same time as Dangerous Liasons but the studio held held it up until Dangerous was released. I saw all three films and found them all interesting in their own way. The difference of how the actors played their parts was extraordinary. And even though Cruel Intentions may have seemed better in some ways probably because it is so modern, don’t dismiss the other two. They tell you something about what the mores and rules were back in the day.

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