is a 1981 neo-noir
film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan
. It stars William Hurt
, Kathleen Turner
, Richard Crenna
, Ted Danson
, J.A. Preston
and Mickey Rourke
. It may be cited as an example of postmodern pastiche
, as its sets are an intentional mix of visual eras.
A substantial portion of the film was shot in downtown Lake Worth, Florida; and in the oceanside enclave of Manalapan. Both communities are located in east-central Palm Beach County, Florida.
The film launched Turner's movie career and was Kasdan's directorial debut.
Ned Racine (Hurt), an inept and rather sleazy Florida lawyer
, becomes entangled with Matty Walker (Turner), a ruthless femme fatale
who is plotting to murder her wealthy husband (Crenna) and collect his entire estate. Racine murders the husband, enlisting the help of one of his shadier clients, an expert on incendiary devices (Mickey Rourke), to help him cover up the crime. The plot is similar to the Billy Wilder
film Double Indemnity
, a made-for-TV remake of which starred Crenna himself as the killer.
All seems to have gone well until an unknown person begins feeding the prosecutor's office bits of incriminating evidence. Reluctantly, Racine's best friends, soft-shoe-dancing District Attorney Peter Lowenstein (Danson) and police detective Oscar Grace, begin to follow the guilty couple's trail.
Box office performance
The film received positive reviews when it was released in 1981. Most reviewers, like Roger Ebert
, compared the film favorably to film noir of the past:
Yes, Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981) is aware of the films that inspired it--especially Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944). But it has a power that transcends its sources. It exploits the personal style of its stars to insinuate itself; Kael is unfair to Turner, who in her debut role played a woman so sexually confident that we can believe her lover (William Hurt) could be dazed into doing almost anything for her. The moment we believe that, the movie stops being an exercise and starts working.
As mentioned by Ebert, film critic Pauline Kael dismissed the film, citing its "insinuating, hotted-up dialogue that it would be fun to hoot at if only the hushed, sleepwalking manner of the film didn't make you cringe or yawn."