RED SHOES DIARIES fans be warned: This cheap-jack thriller succeeds neither as thriller nor erotica. Oversexed college professor Dennis Burke (Peter Coyote) is bounced off the staff of a prestigious university after harassment charges are leveled against him, and is reduced to teaching literature at Claremont, CA's lowly Pollard College. There, the randy Burke must choose between trying for tenure and giving private lessons to Dean's nubile daughter Gretchen (Fairuza Balk). By chance, Burke starts corresponding with Lydia Davis (Nastassja Kinski), the prison pen pal of his new apartment's previous tenant. After paying a visit to lovely Lydia, Burke joins her crusade to prove she didn't kill the wife of her lover, George Kessler (Udo Kier). Burke convinces computer professor Thurston Clarque (Jeremy Piven) to indulge in a little electronic snooping that leads to Lydia's release, but finds himself wondering whether Lydia might be playing both of them for chumps. Then Clarque gets arrested for hacking into prison records and his wife (Heather Ehlers) starts a smear campaign against Burke. Risking the safety of her supporters, Nastassja convinces Burke to force a showdown with Kessler. What will it cost Burke to find out who's really guilty? The craggy Coyote isn't ideal casting for an Ivy League lothario, and Kinski's spaced-out performance is just plain baffling; whatever sexual chemistry is supposed to sizzle between them dies aborning. Murkily written and phlegmatically directed, this libido-shriveling thriller works only as warning about the perils of corresponding with jailbirds.
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