Cinemax Friday: Dangerous Indiscretion (1995, directed by Richard Kletter)

Jim Lomax (C. Thomas Howell) is an up-and-coming advertising executive who, one night, picks up the sultry Caroline Everett (Joan Severance) in a grocery store.  What starts out as a one night stand between two attractive people who both buy their own groceries turns into a full-fledged affair with Caroline asking Jim, “Who are you?” after they sleep together and Jim struggling to define his own identity.

Unfortunately, Caroline is married to Roger Everett (Malcolm McDowell), a wealthy and ruthless businessmen who likes to quote the Art of War.  Unlike Jim, Roger knows who he is and what he believes.  He’s an evil businessman who enjoys destroying other people and who gets a kick out of fooling the world into thinking that he’s actually a compassionate philanthropist.  When Roger finds out that Caroline has been cheating on him, he sets out to destroy both her and Jim.  Because Roger is an arrogant bastard, he not only plots to ruin Jim’s life but he brags about it too.  He tells Jim that he’s going to make his life unbearable and he also says tells him that there’s not a thing that he can do to stop him.  It’s not as if Jim has ever read Suz Tzu and, largely due to the commercials that have been produced by Jim’s own firm, the public sees Roger as being a benevolent and sympathetic figure.  Jim and Caroline will have to team up to figure out a way to reveal Roger for being the monster that he is.

The main problem with Dangerous Indiscretion is that it asks us to accept the idea that C. Thomas Howell could be an equal opponent to Malcolm McDowell.  Howell was one of the better actors to regularly appear in straight-to-video and Skinemax films but he’s till no Malcolm McDowell.  As played by McDowell, Roger comes across as someone who eats his enemies for breakfast while Jim is just a callow ad exec who looks like the star of The Outsiders.  It’s Caligula vs. Soul Man and there’s not much debate about who would win that match-up in the real world.  It’s unfortunate that McDowell, who played a variety of different characters at the beginning of his career, later got typecast in purely villainous roles but he’s still charismatic enough as Roger that you know there’s no way that Jim and Caroline could ever outsmart him.  Whenever Jim and Caroline do pull one over him, it doesn’t feel right.

Fortunately, Dangerous Indiscretion is better directed than the average straight-to-video neo-noir and, even if they are outclassed by McDowell, both C. Thomas Howell and Joan Severance give good enough performances that you don’t get bored when they’re on-screen.  (This was actually the second erotic thriller that Howell made with Severance and it’s a definite step-up from Payback.)  As previously stated, McDowell’s the perfect villain.  By the proud standards of late night 90s Cinemax, Dangerous Indiscretion is an entertaining film with a great bad guy.