Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) has been totally heterosexualized here. But, at least, it works better this time than in other heavy-breathers like DEAD ON (1994), because the leading characters convey the lust-driven motivation so persuasively. Sales executive Tom Hughes (Adam Baldwin) is having a terrible time--barricading himself against financial...read more
Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) has been totally heterosexualized here. But, at least, it works better this time than in other heavy-breathers like DEAD ON (1994), because the leading characters convey the lust-driven motivation so persuasively.
Sales executive Tom Hughes (Adam Baldwin) is having a terrible time--barricading himself against financial ruin, sparring with his wife, Karen (Megan Gallagher), over whether to sell their white elephant of a dream house, and outnavigated by a treacherous co-worker. So, naturally, while at a
conference out of town, he succumbs to a no-strings affair with luscious Jackie Daniels (Theresa Russell).
After both lovers return to their marriages, playmate Jackie has no intention of cutting Tom loose. Pointedly showing Tom evidence of spousal abuse, scheming Jackie proposes a killing-exchange that will leave them debt-free and libidinously liberated. When bitchy Karen conveniently drowns in a car
accident off a bridge, Tom is shocked when Jackie claims responsibility.
Although remorseful and chicken-hearted, Tom is too attracted to Jackie to break free of her spell. Lured into Jackie's spider web, Tom is surprised to find that her husband is none other than his double-crossing colleague, Kirk Daniels (Pat Skipper). Caught off guard, Tom kills Kirk with a
gunshot after nasty Kirk fights for his life while choking Tom with a golf club. In addition to losing an incriminating wedding ring at the scene, Tom must contend with the ignited suspicions of Detective Gold (Barry Primus).
Basically a nice guy, Tom forgets his worries long enough to prevent his neighbor, Jack (Richard K. Olsen), from committing suicide. Unfortunately, Tom is no match for Jackie and his shrewish wife, who concocted the faked death plot for insurance money. Finally cognizant of their betrayal, Tom
confronts the women at their split-the-windfall meeting. After Jackie shoots snooping Detective Gold, Karen kicks the cop's gun to Tom, who pumps his crime partner full of lead. Kissing off Karen, Tom wanders off after making sure the insurance payoff will rescue his beleaguered neighbor Jack
from money worries.
TRADE OFF is bolstered by glittering camerawork and the old movie glamour Baldwin and Russell bring to their roles. Mixing out-of-control heat and boyish naivete, Baldwin pulls off the tricky task of garnering sympathy for an overstimulated sap, even though the audience can sense sexual locomotive
Russell barreling down on him from miles away. The dexterity with which the leads lock lips turn out to be a sizable bounty for this predictable mystery-mash. A cardinal rule of whodunits is to be on guard when a corpse isn't discovered; naturally, Tom's wife makes a guest appearance (quite alive)
at the climax.
Held back by subplot detritus involving Gold's sleuthing and the depression of Tom's neighbor, TRADE OFF doesn't swirl vertiginously to its denouement. But the movie still keeps itself in the double indemnity game, thanks to the heat generated by Baldwin and Russell. (Graphic violence, extensivenudity, extreme profanity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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