Preaching to the Perverted (October 13/03)
Preaching to the Perverted deals with the subject of S&M, a topic that holds absolutely no interest for me. But part of being a movie reviewer means you occasionally have to sit through films that aren't necessarily your cup of tea, which was certainly the case here. Putting aside my prejudices, the film just isn't that good; it seems to be going out of its way to remove the deviant stigma most of us place on S&M participants. In doing that, though, the movie becomes more of a recruitment video for the lifestyle than anything else.
The movie follows the exploits of an eager intern for the British government named Peter (Christien Anholt), who's summoned to investigate the underground S&M subculture. He's assigned the job by a high-ranking official that no doubt wants to accept all the glory if Peter succeeds. But as Peter begins to investigate, he finds himself falling for a New York sex goddess named Tanya Cheex (Guinevere Turner).
The majority of Preaching to the Perverted is just unpleasant to sit through, with various characters running around in bizarre leather outfits and sporting piercings in the least likely places. If the film had been willing to approach this lifestyle with any degree of seriousness, though, the movie would have at least succeeded as a peek into this subculture. But screenwriter Stuart Urban (who also directed) seems more interested in poking fun of the most obvious aspects of the S&M world, when he'd be far better off exploring why these people have chosen to dedicate their lives to this bizarre existence. Urban's script contains exactly one clever line ("the writs are about to hit the fan"), but in general, he sticks with tried-and-true cliches.
It doesn't help that Urban's populated his cast with quite a few terrible actors, who play their roles as broadly as possible. Turner, as the dominatrix Tanya, is easily the film's standout - managing to imbue her character with a surprising amount of depth. Though she's often clad in ridiculous outfits, Turner gives a performance that's far more interesting than the material deserves.
Preaching to the Perverted is unlikely to appeal to the majority of viewers, but having said that, those with an interest in the subject will probably walk away satisfied.