directed by Ian Corson
(Keystone, 1995)

Doug Nelson is deep in the throes of a midlife crisis. Problem is, he's barely 21.

Doug's crisis comes to a climax, so to speak, when his wholesome-to-the-point-of-unhealthy girlfriend, Laura, has to leave town for a few days for an interview at Stanford. That leaves the playing field to Melissa, a university TA who wants to be Doug's T&A. And anybody who can't see where things will go next hasn't been to a movie since 1912.

Probably no film genre was more overworked in the late '80s and early '90s than the sexual thriller, as Hollywood served up fatal attractions and basic instincts until there seemed nowhere else to go with them.

Apparently, there wasn't. And as proof, we have Malicious.

What Malicious brings to the sexual thriller is unclear. Instead of an office we have a university. And instead of a "big account" we have Doug's dream of playing baseball for the Giants. And instead of a handsome Michael Douglas we have a handsome Patrick McGraw as Doug, a pre-med student whose interests stretch from sports to sports and back again.

Doug is studying sports medicine, just in case he can't get into pro baseball. He's terrific with the bat, but he's having a little trouble with the scalpel. That's where Melissa (Molly Ringwald) comes in. A second-year med student with a deep abiding interest in anatomy, Melissa is great with a scalpel, or anything else that cuts. But she has some serious control problems, chief of which is that she wants to control Doug.

That of course, doesn't sit well with Doug's loving but unlovable girlfriend Laura (Sarah Lessez).

Still, none of this seems terribly new, though, to be honest, it isn't terrible. And once in a while it even works.

It works mostly in quick snatches, early in the film, where Ringwald gets the most out of Melissa, the woman who put the "man" into "manipulative."

Ringwald, no longer the ugly duckling of Sixteen Candles, does some surprisingly effective vamping when she's not rolling her eyes for the 47th time. And by mid-film, she's set new standards for women scorned.

Unfortunately, neither time nor script are on her side, as her character suddenly and somewhat inexplicably trades in her scalpel for Doug's bat. So slasher film becomes basher film, and Malicious loses what little credibility it had managed to build in the first few reels.

Even more unfortunate is McGraw's eyes-glazed performance as Doug. From the outset he seems to lack the spine or energy necessary to give him heroic proportions, and his attempts to rise to the occasion are feeble at best. And they're rarely at their best.

What's left then is not much: competent cinematography, reasonably good pacing, some opulent settings and occasionally an effective set piece. But even that gets lost in a twisted, yet predictable ending that provides some thrills and chills, but generally makes even less sense than the rest of the movie.

With a little more logic and little less blood, a little more acting and a little less baseball, Malicious might have been a competent sexual thriller with an original twist or two. As it is, it's simply twisted. And that's simply not enough.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

Buy it from