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The Last Seduction is a 1994 neo-noir erotic thriller film directed by John Dahl, and features Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, and Bill Pullman.[1] The film was produced by ITC Entertainment and distributed by October Films. Fiorentino's performance generated talk of an Oscar nomination, but she was ineligible because the film was shown on HBO before it was released to theaters. October Films and ITC Entertainment sued the Academy, but were unable to make Fiorentino eligible for a nomination.

The 1999 sequel The Last Seduction II featured none of the original cast and starred Joan Severance as the character Fiorentino originated.

Plot

Bridget Gregory works as a telemarketing manager in New York City. Her husband, Clay, is training to be a doctor and is heavily in debt to a loan shark, thus arranges to sell stolen pharmaceutical cocaine to two drug dealers. The transaction becomes tense when the buyers pull a gun, but to Clay's surprise, they eventually pay him $700,000. Clay is left shaken, and on his return home he slaps Bridget after she insults him. She then flees their apartment with the cash while he is in the shower.

On her way to Chicago she stops in Beston, a small town near Buffalo. There she meets Mike Swale, a local man back from a whirlwind marriage in Buffalo that he refuses to talk about. He tries to pick Bridget up, and she proceeds to use him for mere sexual gratification during her stay in town. Adept at word games and mirror writing, and with an imminent return to her hometown in mind, Bridget changes her name to Wendy Kroy and gets a job at the insurance company where, coincidentally, Mike works. Their relationship is strained by her manipulative behavior and the fact he is falling for her.

When Mike tells her how to find out if a man is cheating on his wife by reading his credit reports, Bridget invents a plan based on selling murders to cheated wives. She suggests they start with Lance Collier, a cheating, wife-beating husband residing in Florida. This proves to be the last straw for Mike, and he leaves her alone in his place after an argument. Meanwhile, Clay's thumb is broken by the loan shark for not repaying his loan. Fearing for his health and in dire financial straits, he hires a private detective, Harlan, to retrieve the money from his wife.

Harlan traces her phone area code, travels to Beston, and accosts Bridget at gunpoint right after her argument with Mike. Bridget purposely crashes her car after tricking Harlan into removing his seat belt, resulting in his death. Because Harlan was black, she uses local racial prejudice to convince the police to close the case without further investigation. Bridget then resumes her manipulation of Mike and pretends to travel to Florida to kill Lance Collier. Instead, she goes to Buffalo to meet Mike's ex-wife, Trish. Upon returning, Bridget shows Mike the money she stole from Clay, claiming it is her cut of the life insurance payout from the new widow.

Bridget claims to have done it so they can live together, then tries to persuade him that he must also commit a similar murder so they will be even and to prove that he loves her. She tries to talk Mike into killing a tax lawyer in New York City who is cheating old ladies out of their homes. At first he refuses, but later agrees after receiving a letter from Trish saying she is moving to Beston. The letter was forged by Bridget to change his mind.

Mike goes to New York and breaks into the apartment of the supposed attorney, who turns out to be Clay. After Mike hand cuffs Clay, Clay realizes what is happening when Mike mentions Bridget's alias, and convinces Mike of the truth by showing him a photo of himself and Bridget together. They then hatch a plot to double-cross her, unaware that the tables will be turned on them. Bridget arrives and the still-immobilized Clay, who has been clever enough to predict most of Bridget's actions but fails to understand her sociopathy, tries to make amends with her. Instead, she empties a pepper spray bottle down his throat, killing him. She tells a stunned Mike to rape her. When he refuses, she tells him she knows the truth about Trish, who is transgender. This causes Mike to have rough sex with her while acting out a rape fantasy. Unbeknownst to Mike, Bridget has dialed 9-1-1 and she coaxes him into confessing to Clay's murder as part of the role play. Mike is arrested for rape and murder, while she escapes with the cash, and calmly destroys the only evidence that could have been used in Mike's defense.

Cast

  • Linda Fiorentino as Bridget Gregory
  • Peter Berg as Mike Swale
  • Serena as Trish Swale
  • Bill Pullman as Clay Gregory
  • Bill Nunn as Harlan
  • J. T. Walsh as Frank Griffith
  • Dean Norris as Shep

Production

Screenwriter Steve Barancik said he believed the film was originally pitched as a "standard skin-e-max" low-budget movie to ITC Entertainment even though the filmmakers had "an under-the-radar intention to make a good movie". ITC Entertainment executives were upset with a scene in which Linda Fiorentino is dressed as a cheerleader and wears suspenders over her breasts. Barancik recalled, "Apparently, a guy from the company who was monitoring things and watching the dailies, saw the suspenders over Linda's nipples, and shouted out, 'Are we making an art movie?!' He shut down production and called the principals of the movie on the carpet and they all had to pledge that they had no artistic pretensions". The scene was cut and the sexual roleplaying theme was lost.

Reception

The Last Seduction received positive reviews from critics and it currently holds a 94% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 49 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, highlighting Fiorentino's ability to project her character with dry humor and a freedom from Hollywood conventions typically surrounding a female antagonist. He wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times:

John Dahl's The Last Seduction knows how much we enjoy seeing a character work boldly outside the rules. It gives us a diabolical, evil woman, and goes the distance with her. We keep waiting for the movie to lose its nerve, and it never does: This woman is bad from beginning to end, she never reforms, she never compromises, and the movie doesn't tack on one of those contrived conclusions where the morals squad comes in and tidies up.

Ebert later ranked the film fifth on his year-end list of 1994's best movies.

Year-End Lists

8th – Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News 8th – Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News 9th – Todd Anthony, Miami New Times 10th – Michael Mills, The Palm Beach Post Honorable mention – Betsy Pickle, Knoxville News-Sentinel  Honorable mention – William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Awards

Year Award/Category Recipient Result
BAFTA Awards
1995 BAFTA Film Award - Best Actress Linda Fiorentino Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
1994 CFCA Award - Best Actress Linda Fiorentino Nominated
Cognac Festival du Film Policier
1994 Critics Award John Dahl Won
Directors Guild of America
1995 DGA Award – Outstanding Achievement in Dramatic Specials John Dahl Nominated
Edgar Allan Poe Awards
1995 Edgar - Best Motion Picture Steve Barancik Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards
1995 Independent Spirit Award - Best Female Lead Linda Fiorentino Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards
1995 ALFS Award – Actress of the Year Linda Fiorentino Won
Mystfest
1994 Best Film John Dahl Nominated
National Board of Review, USA
1994 NBR Award – Best TV Film Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
1994 NYFCC Award - Best Actress Linda Fiorentino Won
Society of Texas Film Critics Awards
1994 STFC Award - Best Actress Linda Fiorentino Won
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