Body Heat is an engrossing, mightily stylish meller in which sex and crime walk hand in hand down the path to tragedy, just like in the old days. Working in the imposing shadow of the late James M. Cain screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan makes an impressively confident directorial debut.
William Hurt is a spirited but struggling lawyer just getting by in a marginal Florida coast town whose persistent pursuit of sultry Kathleen Turner pays off in the way of a torrid affair, highly satisfying for both parties.
She’s the young wife of loaded middle-aged businessman Richard Crenna, and it isn’t long before the passion can’t tolerate the limitations imposed. Just as in Double Indemnity it’s the dame who hatches the murder plot, with the guy finally falling into line and coming up with the ingenious way to pull it off.
However familiar the elements, Kasdan has brought the drama alive by steeping it in humid, virtually oozing atmosphere. The heat of the title is palpably evident, both mundanely in the weather and in the irresistible attraction of the sexy leads.
Hurt successfully mixes both laconicism and innocence. In her film debut, Turner registers strongly as a hard gal with a past. Her deep-voiced delivery instantly recalls that of young Lauren Bacall without seeming like an imitation.