Bad to the Bone Film Details
Overview: A bad girl uses her brother to kill her lover.
Review: At first, I thought BAD TO THE BONE was an awful title for this made-for-TV movie. It’s raunchy, tawdry, sleazy, tacky, and all the other adjectives you’d associate with a Times Square peep show. But then I actually watched the film (fascinating how often people don’t do that, isn’t it?), and now I can say without a doubt that the title is the perfect analogue for our villain protagonist here, Francesca “Frankie” Wells (Kristy Swanson) – not just because Frankie is, well, exactly what the title says, but also because, like her, the title is two-faced. (Speaking of which, I am reminded here of Marilyn Monroe’s observation of “If you’re gonna be two-faced, at least make one of them pretty.” Both of Frankie Wells’s faces are pretty.) You immediately see the title and you assume you’re about to watch some tasteless B-movie: a Quentin Tarantino sort of potboiler, perhaps spiced with John Waters’s grotesque brand of humor. That’s certainly what I assumed. And I was dead wrong. From the very first shot, where the hard iron door of a prison cell is opened onto the title credits and a nervous young man in a blue jumpsuit (Jeremy London) is ushered out, it becomes clear that BAD TO THE BONE is not going to be light entertainment, or even black comedy. Genre-wise, it’s pretty much film noir: a remake of sorts of Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) with teenagers instead of adults. But it’s also a Shakespearean tragedy without the Bard’s poetic language. And, for once, George Thoroughgood is nowhere to be seen (or, rather, heard). The nervous lad in the opening scene is Danny Wells, and he is Frankie’s brother. The two siblings had entered into a pact to murder Frankie’s boyfriend (David Chokachi) in order to take control of his luxurious apartment and nightclub – and also to cover up the boyfriend’s role in another murder plotted by Frankie, wherein the Wells siblings’ mother was killed so that Frankie and Danny could cash in on her life insurance. Yes, it definitely rings of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, with Frankie as Phyllis Dietrichson and Danny as Walter Neff. But it also reminded me of some of Shakespeare’s plays, especially his most ominous: MACBETH. Frankie Wells is a late-20th-century Lady MacBeth, no joke. She wants it all, but is more than willing to have some you-know-what-whipped male fetch it all for her at tremendous personal cost to himself. He (Danny/MacBeth) is a cringing tool afraid of his own shadow, while she is smug and calculating – until her world really begins to come apart. And that brings up this film’s most transparent allusion (as transparent as anything this exploitative in content can get, that is): Frankie swimming in the ocean during the movie’s final half-hour, wondering if being immersed in seawater can wash all her sins away. (One wonders if immediately after that scene she went inside to drench herself in “all the perfumes of Arabia.”) Perhaps the most Shakespearean aspect of Frankie Wells, however, is the utter despicability that resides beneath her glamorous and (perversely) appealing exterior – in her bones, so to speak. She is certainly winning as a gorgeous and naughty blonde, but that’s about it for her in the plus column. Her intelligence is barely above average at best (and moronic at worst); and in terms of morality she’s an unrepentant cobra with nihilism in her eyes and a stubborn pride at having already outlived her conscience by her late teens. Her depravity almost literally knows no bounds. But the cobra soon becomes defanged, if not devenomed. Frankie is at her core a pathetic being who is too weak to commit her own crimes; even Phyllis Dietrichson knew how to fire a gun, which Frankie Wells, with her freshly painted fingernails and color-coordinated outfits, would find repellent. Her lone asset is summed up early in the picture, and it’s something that can barely be depicted on network television: “There’s only one thing I know how to do, and they don’t teach it in school.” Frankie knows full well she’s damned, but lacks even the guts to admit that until the very end. But film noir is this drama’s true pedigree, and as the story winds up it heaps on the genre’s time-honored voyeurism, as we get to watch this grotesque amalgamation of Ted Bundy and Kelly Bundy run in a blind panic all throughout America, wriggling like a drowning fish as the FBI’s net tightens. It’s all the shameful fun of watching a smarmy bad girl’s misdeeds finally catch up with her and bite her in the ass, coupled with the equally shameful hope that she manages to keep her buttocks clear of the fangs just a little while longer so that the thrilling chase can continue as long as possible. It’s not the healthiest kick – but hey, if the Romans could have lions… As she is finally nabbed by the police and hauled off to a fate she unquestionably deserves for being so “incredibly guilty” (as Mel Brooks might put it), Frankie pretends to be mad. She does so perhaps to purposely get herself committed to an asylum, perhaps to slither her way out of a trip to prison where she’d almost certainly be beaten – or worse – by hardened female convicts appalled by her spoiled suburban arrogance. (The wormy Danny could probably expect equivalent treatment in the men’s prison.) But then again, perhaps Frankie really is insane. Perhaps evil itself is insane – a ghastly abomination that most of us reflexively shun out of our inherent goodness. At least, I can only hope.
Duration: 96 min
Genre: Crime, Drama
Also known as: Una donna senza scrupoli,Ond rätt igenom,Instinto letal,Relation criminelle,Das Lächeln der Kaltblütigkeit,Anjo Perverso,Bad to the Bone,Mala hasta los huesos,Испорченная до мозга костей