Bad Influence (1990) Blu-ray Review

Rob Lowe & James Spader show excellent chemistry together in this early ’90s thriller

A young Rob Lowe and James Spader star together in this slinky thriller from 1990. It is directed by Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, L.A. Confidential) with a seductive and suspenseful approach recalling Brian De Palma’s better films.

Quiet, steady Michael (James Spader) is a rising financial executive at his firm and soon to be married. When he crosses paths with Alex (Rob Lowe), the two form an unlikely friendship based on Alex constantly pushing Michael outside his comfort zone.

At first the partnership pays dividends for Michael, as Alex’s risk-taking advice helps Michael at work. The smooth Alex, ever the ladies’ man, also helps Michael meet and seduce Claire (Lisa Zane). Tired of playing it by the book, Michael falls under Alex’s dangerous sway. The tension and suspense mount when Alex begins pushing Michael’s path into far more illegal behavior, threatening the analyst’s safety and career.

This is a taut thriller that swiftly moves from slinky action to sheer terror.

David Koepp’s neat script for Bad Influence paints an interesting portrayal of the developing friendship between Lowe’s dangerous drifter and Spader’s successful financial analyst. Both men have something the other wants and their increasingly erratic behavior reveal how much they each have in common below the surface.

Lowe gives a fairly good performance as the mysterious Alex. He’s believable as an attractive drifter plying his looks to leech off rich women. Spader and Lowe have excellent chemistry and play off each other nicely, which is where Bad Influence earns its money as a Hitchcockian thriller. Once Michael gets in over his head, his world spins out of control.

Hanson’s sure direction gives this suspenseful drama the proper grounding it needs. Bad Influence has a number of unexpected and original scenes you won’t see coming in its narrative, making it enjoyably unpredictable. This is a taut thriller that swiftly moves from slinky action to sheer terror, allowing its two stars to shine in their roles. Bad Influence is an underrated, adult thriller that sticks out from the crowd.

Bad Influence Blu-ray screen shot 17

Video

Shout Factory licenses Bad Influence from MGM for this Blu-ray edition. The 1990 thriller receives an adequate, decent upgrade in 1080P video shown at its intended 1.85 aspect ratio. Likely featuring a film transfer from secondary elements, its clarity and definition aren’t the dazzling improvements we’ve seen from the most recent, best 2K film scans. This is a softer transfer with mildly sharpened grain structure. The 99-minute main feature is uncut and included on a BD-50. It is encoded in AVC at excellent compression parameters, completely replicating the underlying film source.

Bad Influence’s cinematography is consistent but on the flatter side, favoring less depth and dimensionality. Some possible filtering has been used in the transfer, resulting in ordinary resolution and less fine detail.

The neutral color palette has average saturation with slightly crushed black levels, reducing just a hint of shadow delineation. Its level of picture quality does seem to represent a newish film scan from softer, secondary elements. The print is in fine condition, showing little positive or negative debris. Contrast is fine but doesn’t pop, an authentic grading decision that respects the movie’s intended appearance.

All in all, this is an ordinary presentation of a 1990 movie. Bad Influence has never looked this good before on home video but is not a showstopper in terms of other recent catalog efforts.

Audio

Bad Influence’s original Dolby stereo mix is heard in an excellent 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. This is a wide presentation with a spacious stereo mix. Dialogue is smoothly placed in balance with a number of Pop tunes, nicely mastered. This is a clean, intelligible audio experience that features a jazzy score by Trevor Jones. The sound design is heard with clarity and comes off with modern production values.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

The older MGM DVD edition only had the following trailer on it. Shout Factory has commissioned an interesting, new interview with Bad Influence’s screenwriter, David Keopp.

Bad Influence Theatrical Trailer (01:56 in HD)

Under the Influence of David Keopp (29:04 in HD) – A fascinating interview where the screenwriter breaks down his writing process and how he broke into the business. I gleaned more insight from this interview than the last dozen featurettes I’ve seen for other releases. It’s an extremely well-done discussion that highlights the ins and outs of writing screenplays.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.