Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) has the usual fantasies. With the house to himself, he might even get the chance to try and live a couple of them out, but when sexy escort Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) arrives at his doorstep things don’t exactly go as planned. That’s okay, as the nights grow longer and the daylight vanishes these two quickly start coming up with a plan, and if Joel plays his cards right everything he’s always dreamed of might only be a kiss on the cheek away from materializing.
If Top Gun was the movie that made Tom Cruise an international superstar, Risky Business was the film that got him that opportunity. Seldom has there been a star-making roll offered a young up-and-coming actor like Joel Goodson, and no matter what you want to say about the man’s couch-jumping antics or pharmaceutical lunacies the one thing you cannot dispute is just how engaging, electric and magnetically alive he is here.
Quite frankly, Paul Brickman’s coming-of-age teenage classic is one of the all-time greats of the genre. There are virtually no false steps, not a single wrong move, the director achieving a level of brilliance with such confident ease it remains absolutely stunning that 25 years since this picture’s release the man still only has one other credit (Men Don’t Leave) to his name. The whole thing plays like a fever dream, debating the cold certainty of adulthood with the fragile and transient euphoria of adolescence, building to a raging cacophony of moral disintegration that’s both harrowing and devastating. Fortunately that doesn’t stop it from being wildly entertaining.
The laughs simply do not stop, and the more prescient and honest Brickman’s script becomes the more fearlessly the Cruise goes out of his way to make sure we’re still rooting for Joel even though we know we should stop.
This wasn’t a movie I saw back in 1983. It actually probably wasn’t until maybe a decade later I caught it on VHS and was immediately wowed by just how wonderful it was. Much like Say Anything this one spoke volumes to me (obviously in a much different way), and over the years I keep finding myself returning to its comfy confines happy to see it grow, evolve and adapt the same as I. There is a price to all of Joel’s moonlight conquests, an almost Faustian bargain that has to be made for him rise so fast. While the studio suggested ending doesn’t entirely work (although Richard Masur’s parting glance to Cruise is arguably one of the best of its kind in cinema history), I find myself agreeing with it the older I get. Why? Because I can see Joel now, can picture him dealing with our modern economic disasters and political uncertainties, seeing the error of his debauched theories and how seeing how saying, “What the fuck?” might not be the answer to all of life’s complexities.
For some reason, thinking of this comeuppance makes me happy and sad, at the same time. As much as I’d like to think I’ve done pretty well for myself, that I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, just a big a part revels in Joel’s cocky go-for-broke attitude and wishes I’d have been able to emulate it myself.
All that aside, all you really need to know is that Risky Business remains one of the more wonderfully enjoyable motion pictures most viewers are ever likely to find. Everything after that is just a bonus.
As for the extras, there are two highly laudable highlights. The first is the original director’s cut of the final scene. Is it an improvement? No. Does it add a fascinating new dimension to the climax that would have worked equally as well had the studio had the guts to stick with it? Maybe. Seeing how much I love the original ending, that’s a question I’m going to have to sit on for a while and ponder.
The second is the wonderful audio commentary reuniting Brickman, Cruise and producer Jon Avnet. The first two obviously still have a great affinity for one another, and their collective joy at having made this picture is downright infectious. It’s a great track, and the fact the usually reclusive Cruise sat down for it (he didn’t do the same for Top Gun, after all) should speak volumes as to what he thinks of this particular picture and its place in his own career.
Other than that, the rest is pretty much the same old-same old. There are some interesting screen tests featuring Cruise and De Mornay, the original Theatrical Trailer and a 25th Anniversary Retrospective that’s a lot of fun. None of these are going to blow you away, but that doesn’t make them any less worth a look.
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