Risky Business (1983)

Film: Risky Business (1983)
Director: Paul Brickman
Starring: Tom Cruise, R. De Mornay, C. Armstrong
Rating: *****

Long before alien evangelising, Tom Cruise was, believe it or not, better known for his acting. That time was the lost decade of film: the 80s. Serving as a reminder of Cruise’s early accomplishments, Risky Business is a bygone gem lost to a tide straight-to-video sex comedies that have since flooded our screens.

It’s typical enough – perhaps familiar to some, thanks to the awful 2004 rip-off The Girl Next Door (that swaps prostitutes for porn stars) – as uptight teen Joel (Cruise) waves goodbye to his parents for the week, he’s goaded on by his friends to take advantage. A defiant spin in his dad’s prized Porsche, a raid on the liquor cabinet and loud music are all first on Joel’s to-do list. His self-assured pal Miles (probably the model for Stifler-type characters that have since pervaded sex comedies), convinces Joel to hire a call girl. A number of near-catastrophes ensue as the sensible Joel is confronted by continued predicaments revolving around prostitutes and their ‘killer pimp’, endangering his chances of attending Princeton, all the while his parents’ return edges ever closer. The comedic elements arise from a sense of Joel’s anxiety, as each scene teeters on the brink of disaster. The sweetly innocent Cruise provides plenty of comic touches, as sheer panic often contorts his fresh-faced features. A particular scene sees Cruise scrabbling desperately at the bonnet of the Porsche as it plummets into lake Michigan.

While immensely fun, Risky Business hints at darker themes and moral ambiguity. Are the hooker’s professions really any worse than the rapacious money-making schemes encouraged by Joel’s school?

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