Film review: Body of Evidence

Published: Monday, Jan. 18 1993 12:00 a.m. MST

"Body of Evidence" is an obvious mix of "Fatal Attraction" and "Jagged Edge," by way of "Basic Instinct."

The film is set in Portland and opens on a dark and stormy night, with a wealthy older man dead in his bed, his hands handcuffed to the headboard. The television at the foot of the bed is on and a videotape shows him in the throes of passion with Madonna. Maybe he died of embarrassment.

Cut to the next morning as prosecutor Joe Mantegna investigates the crowded scene at the victim's mansion, where they discover cocaine was involved.

So far, it's very similar to "Basic Instinct." Why do I feel like that's no accident?

At the victim's funeral, Madonna, mourning and dressed in black, is approached by Willem Dafoe. He's the defense attorney she has solicited by phone. And he apparently has no office.

Madonna is charged with murder and the trial begins immediately, a clear indication that Oregon is the only state in the union where there is no wait for a court date after filing a case.

At one point Mantegna tells the jury Madonna used her body as a deadly weapon, with intense kinky sex as the device to murder the victim. Right.

Dafoe, who is married to restaurateur Julianne Moore (the best friend in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"), does not heed the warning, however, falling immediately into a steamy affair with Madonna. And he seems to have no compunctions about her kinky leanings — even when she pours hot candle wax on his bare chest and throws him down on broken glass. Of course, Moore does wonder why Dafoe is coming home late and exhausted, bruised and scarred.

Also figuring in the proceedings are Anne Archer, as the victim's longtime secretary, who has something to hide; Jurgen Prochnow as the victim's doctor, who also has something to hide; and Frank Lan-gella as Madonna's former lover, who, yes, has something to hide.

Despite a courtroom full of red herrings, however, the "mystery" is easily unraveled by the moviegoer, as well as the "twist" ending. In fact, the screenplay, by first-timer Brad Mirman, seems like a paste-up job from a dozen other movies. And director Uli Edel ("Last Exit to Brooklyn") concentrates on the sleaze when he should be helping Madonna act.

Surrounding her with talented people like Dafoe, Mantegna, Archer and Moore only causes her to pale in comparison, revealing an inability to project any depth or sense of real emotion.

"Body of Evidence" is rated R for violence, considerable sex and nudity, along with profanity, vulgarity and drug abuse.