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RISKY BUSINESS
25th Anniversary Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano, Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong
Director: Paul Brickman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85.1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2008

“I’ve got a Trig midterm tomorrow and I’m being chased by Guido, the Killer Pimp.”

Film ****

All it took was a scene involving a high schooler dancing in his underwear while lip synching to Bob Seger, and the rest is history. Risky Business was the film that launched a then mostly unknown actor by the name of Tom Cruise into superstardom almost immediately. Now although it's fair to suggest that the instant stardom may have been caused by the number of females swooning at that famous dancing sequence, there was no denying the charisma the 19 year old Cruise possessed in his first leading role.

And while the film being Cruise’s big launching pad is most noteworthy, that fact tends to overshadow an even bigger fact, Risky Business is simply a terrific movie. Not only do I consider it to be one of the best comedies of the 80s, but one of the best teen comedies of all time. Porky’s was the film to ignite the teen sex comedy genre into a phenomenon, and Risky Business was the first one to illustrate that such a comedy could be done with a bit more edge and intelligence.

Those two ingredients are exactly what writer/director Paul Brickman brought to the table with this film. He also brought a unique style of filmmaking that was rare for both the genre and mainstream movies in general. In terms of visual style and music score (one of the all time best), I can’t think of another film like it.

But in the end, maybe it helps to be a guy to appreciate the movie, because it does represent every teenage boy’s fantasy. Joel Goodsen (Cruise), a clean-cut high school senior, is left with housesitting duties while his parents go on vacation. Sounds like a simple task, but then plug in the title of the movie and you should get a sense of how wildly insane things for Joel.

A case of desperate hormones, as well as numerous pieces of advice from best friend Miles (Curtis Armstrong), inspires Joel to call an escort service. This leads to an encounter with the beautiful Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), in a scene that remains one of the most gloriously sexy introductions for a female character in any movie. And since Ms. De Mornay is one of the most beautiful women in the history of cinema, the scene is even more fantastic!

However, Joel forgot to take into consideration the rate of cost for a girl in Lana’s profession, and that’s the first of many misfortunes he will come across as a result of thinking with the downstairs instrument. Lana steals a priceless artifact from his house. Although she agrees to return it, that doesn’t erase the even bigger problem that has found its way into Joel’s life.

That problem is Guido, the Killer Pimp (Joe Pantoliano), whose distinctive title pretty much makes others in his profession look not so threatening. Lana wants to rid herself of Guido, who has mistreated her severely from day one, and soon sees Joel as the one to rescue her from her dreaded profession. Of course, getting Guido off their backs is not going to be the world’s easiest task.

Eventually, a real relationship develops between Joel and Lana, as well as a business partnership. He wants to get into a major Ivy League school. In order to get the necessary funds, he does no less than turn his very house into a brothel.

Although the film is easily considered a comedy, and a fantastic one at that, there’s a bit of a dark tone that presents itself in certain areas, mainly near the end. It takes time to focus on how Joel becomes slightly changed following his “risky” actions. It’s an aspect of the film that comes way out of left field and surprises you, thus making it an even more bold film.

And I can leave out one of the most important elements of the movie, if not THE most important. The music score by Tangerine Dream is one of a kind, and helps in setting a unique mood for the film. The music piece played during Joel and Lana’s lovemaking scene on a train is one of best pieces of film music I’ve ever heard.

Even some of the best comedies from the 80s tend to feel a little dated by today’s standards, but Risky Business isn’t one of those movies. It remains a funny, edgy and dangerous piece of entertainment. If anything, it’s a comedy I always look forward to revisiting!

Video ***1/2

Having owned the original DVD release, which was one of the first discs from Warner to hit the market, I can certainly say that picture quality on this reissue is superior. The double-sided disc format is gone, thankfully, allowing the anamorphic image to be presented in a more crisp and detailed form. A couple scenes do show some softness, probably resulting from the film’s age, but overall this is a most impressive handling of an 80s pic.

Audio ***

The sound mix is definitely a strong upgrade. The previous disc only carried a 2.0 mix, but thanks to the miracle of Dolby 5.1, the film sounds as great as it possibly can. Granted, it’s mostly a dialogue-oriented comedy, but the music in the film sounds phenomenal. The classic Bob Seger sing-a-long sequence has never sounded better.

Features ***1/2

Of course, extras are what the first disc was sorely lacking, making this 25th Anniversary Edition release from Warner a good enough reason for you to part ways with the original one. Included is a commentary track with Tom Cruise, writer/director Paul Brickman and producer Jon Avnet. We also get a nice half hour 25th Anniversary Retrospective documentary, as well as Original Screen Tests, a Director’s Cut of the final scene of the film, and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Risky Business remains one of my all time favorite comedies, and it more than holds up when watching it today. The new 25th Anniversary Edition is a terrific reason to experience the film again, and an even better reason to see it for the first time!

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