Risky Business (1983)    2 Stars

“There’s a time for playing it safe and a time for Risky Business.”

Risky Business (1983)
 Risky Business (1983)

Director: Paul Brickman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano

Synopsis: A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.




The plot of Risky Business, about the unlikely relationship between a teenage boy and an essentially kind-hearted young hooker whose spirit has not yet been drained by life’s hard knocks, falls beyond realistic belief. But somehow writer and director Paul Brickman manages to divert our attention from its implausibility for long stretches of time. A fresh-faced 21-year-old Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) unencumbered by the baggage of super-stardom, plays Joel, the only son of wealthy parents who trust him well enough to jet off on holiday leaving him in charge of the family home. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

The hooker, Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), that the horny teen employs for a night of sex, wafts into the movie from one of those over-romanticised erotic movies aimed at lonely middle-aged women. She’s naked within seconds but, apart from this scene, Risky Business is curiously coy about the nature of the business it depicts. Sex for money is passed off as a teen house party in which kids play frisbee in the garden while they wait to be summoned by one of the gorgeous hookers, none of whom show any signs of drug abuse or disease. Filmed just before the AIDs scare really took off, Risky Business is a movie which would probably never have made it to our screens a couple of years later.

Lana might have set Joel up from the off, but she insists otherwise. Before he knows it, Joel has managed to dump his dad’s Porsche in a river and antagonise Lana’s pimp (a skinny Joe Pantoliano – Midnight Run, The Matrix). Both incidents will cost more money to put right than Joel has, so he semi-reluctantly agrees to go into partnership with Lana for one night only, providing the location from which she and her friends will service Joel’s horny school friends.

It’s funny the way Joel acquires an instant coolness the moment he embarks on life as a teenage pimp. He parts his hair in the middle (that was cool in the ‘80s, honest), wears RayBan Wayfarers (sending sales through the roof) and plants a cigarette in the corner of his mouth like Bogart or Belmondo. That’s not much of a message to send out but, hey, this was the 1980s. Back then nobody was offended by anything.

It’s a stylish movie, and it’s effortlessly superior to any other teen comedy from the 1980s – or any other era for that matter – because it isn’t really a teen movie at all. Risky Business is really a satire of 1980s America’s materialistic preoccupations cleverly disguised as a teen movie. The young cast, all largely unknown back then, acquit themselves well (even Curtis Armstrong refrains from being too annoying) with Cruise and De Mornay breathing life into what could so easily be stereotypical characters, thanks to Brickman’s arch and concise screenplay.

(Reviewed 16th December 2014)

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