Bad Influence

A thriller of sorts, although it may take you about half of the movie's running time to figure this out. Strangers on a Train is the approximate model, with Rob Lowe playing Mephistopheles to James Spader's Faust—taking over his life and coaching him to be more aggressive with women and at his job as a marketing analyst, but gradually revealing himself as a demented power freak. David Koepp, who collaborated on the script for Apartment Zero (which has a closely related theme), seems to have lost much of his savvy here, and director Curtis Hanson manages to dissipate part of what remains by avoiding the homoerotic subtext and paying heed only occasionally to thriller mechanics. The film manages to work in allusions to both Rob Lowe's real-life scandal involving videotape and Spader's part in sex, lies, and videotape, but the topicality doesn't add much. The results are uneven but fairly watchable. With Lisa Zane, Christian Clemenson, and Kathleen Wilhoite.

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