Monday, October 5, 2015

...Unless They're Hot Men With Ponytails

Has there been a modern actor who gives more to his roles than Antonio Banderas? The man somehow manages to act to the tippy tip of his ebony ponytail, and nowhere was that more apparent than in the many steamy thrillers he did in the ‘90s.

And also, elaborate European photo shoots

Quick Plot: Dr. Sarah Taylor (fresh off rocking the cradle Rebecca De Mornay) is a criminal psychologist trying to figure out if rapist/murderer Harry Dean Stanton is actually crazy or faking insanity for his upcoming trial. Being a career woman, her home life is naturally lonely and sad. Sarah’s apartment is home to an affectionate cat (yes, you should be worried) and a few pictures of her ex-boyfriend, who mysteriously vanished without a trace a year earlier. She also has a deadbeat alcoholic dad trying a little too hard to return to her life.

One night, Sarah has a wine-fueled meet-cute with a handsome stranger named Tony played with all the smoldering sexiness that can be contained by Antonio Banderas’s ponytail holder. 

The pair begin what may very well be one of the most complicated relationships I’ve ever seen portrayed in a mainstream film. After a successful date, they go to a carnival where Tony shows off his shooting skills to a nervous Sarah. While we’re not talking Darkman TAKE THE F*CKING ELEPHANT levels of tension, Sarah is rattled and proceeds to call everything off, storming out of Tony’s sparsely furnished industrial loft with attitude, only to turn around and come back in for some aggressive industrial loft cage sex set to the tune of your typical ‘90s saxophone solo.

Things keep getting weird for Sarah. Following a mysterious delivery of dead flowers, she receives a serial killer style note pointing her towards a newspaper obituary of herself. Also, her slaughtered cat shows up in a parcel. 

Now, it’s personal.

Despite the fact that Sarah is working on a high-profile case of an imprisoned murderer, the cops’ reaction to her receiving threats and a dead cat is essentially “here’s the business card of a private investigator that can probably do a better job than we can.” 

Much mystery follows, and it’s a pretty fun ride. What kind of dark secrets are lurking in Tony’s body hair? Could upstairs neighbor Dennis Miller be jealous to the point of kitticide? Has Sarah’s dad returned with other motives than reconciliation? Is Harry Dean Stanton (side note: I am apparently incapable of not writing his name as “Harry Dead Stanton”; sorry Hank) using some outside clout to scare his doctor to his side? Can you ever trust a former cop who drinks chamomile tea?

These questions and many more are answered in a rather glorious manner with Never Talk To Stranger’s gleeful finale, one that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. The best part about the insane zaniness of it all is that when you think back on the film, the bizarre twist (and I do mean bizarre) in no way comes out of nowhere. Savvy viewers shouldn’t be shocked.

Even though it’s REALLY kind of ridiculous.

There were a lot of steamy dramatic thrillers that came out in the ‘90s, and most of them involved the kind of poster art that gave us serious closeups of its stars staring out at the potential audience, sometimes with unclothed but still PG-13 rated body parts padding out the frame. Never Talk To Strangers is indeed one such film, but unlike many of its peers, it delivers on its promise. Is it a masterpiece? Heavens no. Does it involve Antonio Banderas pouring wine with the same kind of machismo you’d normally find in a Rambo movie? Yes indeed. 

Isn’t life grand?

High Points

Perhaps even more notably, this film has a montage that involves Rebecca De Mornay and Antonio Banderas involved in slow-motion trust exercises, playing in the snow, and bedroom sex that finds the oddest use of a satin sheet I've ever seen, and easily an early influence on The Human Centipede

Low Points
I suppose one could find fault with the odd pacing of the film’s first hour, which has a bizarrely hard time finding any kind of basis in keeping Sarah’s career, budding romance, and death threats in a kind of tandem that makes sense

Lessons To How You Know You’re Watching A ‘90s Movie
Dennis Miller plays the ex-love interest and now slightly sleazy platonic friend who ends up in the hospital

One could go to an airport and randomly choose different flights to board two minutes before take-off with only the slightest security check

A garbage disposal in every home was simply the lay of the land


Sadly Never Talk To Strangers seems to be a hard find. It’s a shame because this is the kind of film that’s perfect for one of those “everybody rediscovers it on Netflix and talks about how bonkers it is for a week” renewals. I can’t recommend anyone spends hard-earned cash on this, but if you can track it down at your local library (WHICH SHOULD BE YOUR BEST FRIEND ANYWAY) or video store, it’s more than worth a watch with a vintage bottle of pinot noir as recommended by a sexy Spanish man with a ponytail and ridiculous apartment.

And if you can't track down the film but need some sort of fix, I give you this:


  1. Watched this one tonight as well as Invisible Invaders. The tragic romance theme music made it all a bit weirder... and yeah, the ending was great. I kind of saw it coming but it still impressed.