Risky Business

Dir: Paul Brickman, 1983


The film that foistered Tom Cruise on the cinema going public, is one of excess and a time capsule of bygone era.

Joel Goodson (Cruise) lives in a wealthy area of Chicago. When his parents take a holiday, Joel uses the opportunity to let go and have some fun.

Calling prostitute Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), Joel finds his life turned upside down when he steals from him, brings her friend round and has to contend with her pimp.

After damaging his dad’s Porsche, Joel opens his house up as a brothel for the night, inviting his friends and Lana’s call girl friends.

Risky Business isn’t the classic masterpiece that it is often claimed to be. To be honest, it’s not, really, any of the things it’s labelled. Often called a raunchy comedy, the laughs are kept to thr absolute minimum, making them, practically, non-existent. It’s incredibly difficult to put a case forward, arguing that it is raunchy. Aside from a quick glimpse of De Mornay’s neatly trimmed front bottom, the raunch is relegated to kissing and stroking, accompanied by a terribly archetypal eighties time; a la Phil Collins.

The soundtrack by forgotten eighties synth pop group, Tangerine Dream, is used sparsely and not very good. The group were also responsible for Michael Mann’s The Keep and Ridley Scott’s Legend. Hmmm…they seem to have a habit of attaching themselves to projects that don’t get released with the director’s true intention. Maybe they’re just a bad omen.

Risky Business, as released, isn’t entirely director Brickman’s approved cut. The studio felt that the ending was too bleak and sombre, so demanded a more upbeat ending. Although this ends the film rather nicely, Brickman’s dour version is more realistic and stronger.

To be fair, the film is successful in depicting an eighties America and, to some extent, the UK. Stripping the movie down to it’s core, there is more at play here than a raunchy comedy. It’s about capitalism and greed. Materialism and social status. Maturing and trying to find your own way in life. Growing up means making mistakes, regardless of how bad they are. All these elements are there but are lost amongst the theme of sex.

The Cruise persona is out in force, here, and it isn’t a shock that he’s become the number one celebrity in the world. The king of Hollywood. That smarminess and domineering screen presence, coupled with the cocky personality that has served him so well, is fully exposed and displayed.

De Mornay, alas, hasn’t had, exactly, the stellar career that her make lead has had. Subjected to the majority of roles where she has to get her kit off, like Roger Vadim’s 1988 remake of his fifties classic And God Created Woman. A shame as she is a pretty good actress and deserved a higher level of recognition. But, she does look super hot, in this, and oozes a natural sexiness.

Paul Brickman’s film is not a classic by any means and, surprisingly, hasn’t really dated. The themes are still as relevant today. It’s only fashions that have changed. However, it isn’t one you’ll forget and does keep you watching.

Enjoyable for an evening’s entertainment but it’s not one that will make you go to it very often.


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