In 2020 I’m still obsessed with 90’s erotic, or as I like to call them, sexy thrillers. The genre that defined a part of a decade that will forever be frozen in time. They’re evergreen content. Relevant, regardless of how much time passes. No matter how archaic or cheesy some themes are timeless. Such as sex and murder. Today, salacious 90’s thriller Jade turns 25 years old and while 1995 feels like a lifetime ago, those same themes remain.
In 1995 at fifteen, I was fascinated by the defining thrillers of the decade. Basic Instinct, Sliver, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and endless others. Movies that allowed me to sink into a (sometimes) sick reality where women may be victims but they’re also powerful, even dangerous.
I remember seeing Jade in 1995. The sexy 90’s thriller starred David Caruso fresh from a breakthrough role on NYPD Blue. Jade was to be the start of a huge film career. It also had Linda Fiorentino. Her brilliant femme fatale Bridget in The Last Seduction the prior year, a star defining role. Instead, Jade was reviled by critics. Caruso and Fiorentino went on to do some interesting things, but neither hit the level of fame expected.
Jade is another sexy San Francisco thriller with Fiorentino reprising her femme fatale persona and Caruso as David Corelli, the ADA and friend both falling for her and suspecting her of multiple murders.
Writer Joe Eszterhas echos his own 1992 classic Basic Instinct. Maybe the sexiest thriller of all time.
Jade opens similarly, with detectives investigating the brutal murder of an affluent, wealthy business man that involves sex play. In this case, not a silk scarf, but a ancient fertility mask.
While he kept from completely plagiarizing his own work, and original femme fatale, there are many commonalities. The San Francisco setting, a Roxy style red herring and an action filled car chase just to name a few.
And sex and murder are always in fashion. Corelli’s best friend, defense attorney Matt Gavin( Chazz Palminteri) even says, “There’s only three things in life. Money, sex and power.” William Friedkin’s film uses them all gratuitously to illustrate a woman using her sexuality and grappling with how to control it. Against the backdrop of murder and a mystery perpetuating the is she, or isn’t she a killer storyline.
David’s investigations soon lead him to the discovery of Jade. A high priced escort known to frequent the houses of affluent, and powerful businessmen. She’s also embroiled in a sex scandal with the city’s governor.
As the case deepens, it’s revealed that the fingerprints on the hatchet found at the scene belong to Katrina Gavin. The wife of David’s best friend, and also his ex-girlfriend. She explains an art tour as the reason for her fingerprints on the collection.
But it’s soon revealed, to his surprise, that is his ex is, in fact, the infamous Jade. She’s turned to a secret escort life to wield her own sense of freedom and power. But she is also a murderer?
In a Me Too culture, Jade does accomplish some small level of female empowerment. Though she sets herself up for unsavory situations, it could be argued, just like Catherine Tramell before her, that Katrina is in control of every scene she sets. Though she’s nowhere near as devilishly charming.
Ultimately, Jade’s ending doesn’t feature any ambiguous, fade to black alternate scene, (although there were rumored alternate endings). It does however include a 3rd act thriller style twist.
25 years later, Jade still doesn’t live up to its hype or potential. But it remains a salacious 90’s thriller and those are my guilty pleasures. So if it’s on, I’ll always give it a watch.
Which salacious 90’s thriller is your favorite?