Wealthy builder Charlie LeBlanc (Burt Reynolds) hires Jimmy Mulate (Peter Facinelli), a law student working for his college fees as a carpenter on LeBlanc’s payroll, to test the fidelity of his young, beautiful wife Lilly (Saffron Burrows). Charlie leaves town for a week, leaving Jimmy to seduce Lilly. But Lilly discovers her husband’s scheme and decides to use Jimmy for her own purposes. Meanwhile, Jimmy finds himself drawn to Lilly, and reluctant to confess his conquest to Charlie, even though it means giving up $40,000.
Review by Louise Keller:
I like films that finish somewhere different to where you expect. Bill Bennett’s psychological thriller Tempted does just that, setting its audience up to anticipate a sexual temptation with ingredients of jealousy, greed and lust. But it delivers much more – namely through the myriad of twists and turns, adding murder, mayhem, double cross, honour, blackmail and revenge to the list. The themes are a continuation of those Bennett explored in his 1997 Australian thriller Kiss or Kill, which equally toyed with the tantalising theme of moral ambiguity. For my money, the second half of this film works much better than the first, when all the ingredients have settled in the pot and have been alluringly stirred. The atmosphere then becomes claustrophobic, intensified by David Bridie’s dense score while an unsteady hand-held camera makes us feel breathless. I felt a little on the sidelines at the beginning of the tale, when the all-important chemistry between Jimmy and Lilly doesn’t ignite and a couple of actions don’t ring true. Why does Charlie choose Jimmy? And why is Lilly so friendly when Jimmy first comes to the house, when she had previously been aloof? When Jimmy comes to Lilly after their first passionate encounter on the kitchen dresser (demolishing all the crockery), they are both scared. After all Lilly’s husband knows. Can we believe that they immediately undress for a showy repeat performance on the staircase? But these reservations aside, it all comes together as the plot progresses, when the psychological edge takes hold. Saffron Burrows is striking as the beautiful, bored rich wife, dazzling to look at with plenty of mystique. It occurred to me a couple of times as we were watching Burrows’ scenes with Facinelli, that we could have been watching Cruise and Kidman. Especially when the actors were shot in profile: Burrows, long and lean with crinkly long blonde curls; Facinelli, Cruise-like boyish features and similar mop of hair. But although Facinelli does a pretty good job much of the time, he is no Tom Cruise, and never exudes that ‘it’ charisma factor. Burt Reynolds is terrific as the jaded rich man with dubious morals. The unpredictable New Orleans locations are a great bonus – this is a side of New Orleans I have certainly never seen before, and one that reinforces all those dark temptations that Bennett has tossed into the air for us to catch.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins with a swampy voiced Burt Reynolds talking over the images of a Southern swamp as the camera glides above the murky, mysterious waters, telling us that swamps hide a myriad of secrets. At the other end of the film, we are back at the swamp, and we now recognise it as the film’s metaphor, or signature item. In between, the film sets forth with the moral that once you get into a swamp, you’ll never be totally free of its filthy stench. Or something along those lines. Nice metaphor, and an enjoyable film with a great sense of mood, well built up by the combination of production design and music – and some fine menace from Burt Reynolds as the ageing husband with a deep insecurity. There are some really fine scenes and the performances are tops, all of which patches up some scripting bumps and holes. The inheritance as motivation for beautiful wife Lilly seems like a patched-on idea, and some of the action is unexpected, at best. (And some of the sexction seems a little far fetched, but hey, those Southerners…) There is also a weird little gaff in Act 1, when Jimmy’s buddy seems to know who is tempting Jimmy, without having been told. It led me on a red herring for the rest of the film, thinking he must play some sinister part in the plot. But the overall impact of the film has lingered, pleasantly, with the combination of Australian filmmakers (including key department heads) and American cast makes it interesting.
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CAST: Burt Reynolds, Saffron Burrows, Peter Facinelli, Mike Starr, George DiCenzo
PRODUCER: Bill Bennett, Jennifer Cluff, Larry Katz, David Kronemeyer
DIRECTOR: Bill Bennett
SCRIPT: Bill Bennett
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Clark
EDITOR: Henry Dangar
MUSIC: David Bridie
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Monroe Kelly
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Becker Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 14, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: May 14, 2003 (Also on DVD)