The plot concerns the murder trial of Rebecca Carlson (Madonna), who is accused of murdering an elderly millionaire with a combination of cocaine and vigorous sex until he died of a heart attack. Carlson is represented by her attorney Frank Dulaney (Dafoe), who is drawn into a torrid sexual affair with her as he tries to prove her innocence.
Made on the heels of Basic Instinct, the film also played up Madonna's then obsession with explicit sex in her works, coming out just three months after the Erotica album and her pornographic coffee table book Sex. The original cut of the film received an NC-17 rating in the US, but was cut down to an R rating for a theatrical release.
Not to be confused with the forensic drama Body of Proof.
This film provides examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: Subverted. Dulaney's clearly not a good person given the affair he has with Rebecca and his later rape of her, but he does genuinely believe Rebecca is innocent of murder and doesn't use any particularly underhanded methods to prove it.
- Bait-and-Switch: Rebecca and Frank engage in some very sexual dialogue. The next shot is of a couple making love—but it's Frank and his wife. Though there might still be some Retargeted Lust going on.
- Betty and Veronica: Joanne and Rebecca in relation to Andrew Marsh; Sharon and Rebecca in relation to Frank.
- Big Fancy House: Rebecca has one. Enough for at least one review to point out that if she could afford it, she wouldn't need to kill an old man for his money.
- Black Widow: After inheriting a fortune from her old, wealthy lover, Rebecca Carlson is put on trial after allegations that she had been going after rich men with health problems so she could continually have sex with them until their hearts gave out.
- Bondage Is Bad: Even if the film spends a lot of time on whether or not Rebecca actually murdered the old guy, her taste in bondage is the first clue that she's a very amoral individual. Since she did murder the guy, it ends up being played completely straight.
- Broken Aesop: The film spends a lot of time trying to show that as sex-obsessed as Rebecca is, she did genuinely love the old guy and she's being slut-shamed for being more open in expressing her sexuality. Nope, she really did murder the guy and brags about it after Dulaney gets her off.
- Chained to a Bed: How the victim is found. This is a fetish of Rebecca's—she does it to Dulaney and an ex testifies about her doing it to him.
- Destination Defenestration: After Rebecca gets shot, she falls back until she dramatically falls out of the window, plunging into the canal to her death.
- Easily Forgiven: After the climactic final fight at Rebecca's place, Sharon is seen walking down the dock, implying that Frank will be this, despite her having kicked him out after discovering his infidelity.
- Elevator Going Down: Rebecca "subtly" sticks her hand in Dulaney's pants while they're taking an elevator ride.
- Expy: Rebecca is clearly this of Catherine Trammell—a blonde Femme Fatale with a penchant for tying her lovers up and killing them.
- Gold Digger: Rebecca. The prosecutor points out her penchant for dating wealthy, older men, which she counteracts by claiming that as someone who runs an art gallery, most of the people she meets tend to be rich.
- Groin Attack: When Rebecca first ties Dulaney to bed, she pours candle wax all over him, including his groin.
- Hollywood Law:
- It would be next-to-impossible to prove that Rebecca intentionally screwed the guy to death, something cited by numerous people in the film, and reflected in her acquittal. Even arresting her would be highly unlikely.
- During the trial, when she reveals that she caught her ex in bed with another man, he simply stands up and nods to confirm her story. That would never happen in Real Life. He'd be called back to the stand to testify again.
- Rebecca testifies, when even the worst defense attorney knows that having a defendant testifying is a bad idea. That said, Frank and the judge explicitly warn her against this, as they're obligated to do.
- Home Porn Movie: The detectives find one of Rebecca and the victim. When they let the tape run on, they find he taped over one of him and Joanna.
- Inheritance Murder: Already suspicious, the cops and DA are convinced Rebecca murdered the old guy when they discover that he left most of his money to her.
- Karma Houdini: Subverted. Rebecca thinks she just got away with murder after the trial is over... only to be shot dead by Doctor Alan Paley at the end.
- MayDecember Romance: Rebecca and her string of lovers, which she justifies by saying that she "likes confident men who aren't afraid to experiment. They tend to be older."
- Mistaken for Junkie: Subverted. The murder victim's secretary claims to have seen his girlfriend (and suspected killer) Rebecca snorting cocaine. When Frank confronts her about this, she reveals that the white powder was an herbal medication for menstrual cramps. Later it turns out that she did in fact use cocaine and that what the secretary assumed was probably correct.
- Ms. Fanservice: Whatever this movie's flaws, it doesn't shy away from the fact that Madonna is a beautiful woman, which gets shown with copious nudity and sex scenes. There's a few nude shots of Julianne Moore (plus a sex scene) and Anne Archer too.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: This seems to be the course of how Dulaney and Rebecca's relationship goes, as at two different points in the movie, one handcuffs the other and rapes them this but it's revealed to be okay because the other person says they ultimately enjoyed it.
- Out with a Bang: The film opens with a wealthy man dying from a heart-attack caused by indulging in cocaine and the stress brought about by having extremely passionate sex with his younger girlfriend. The resulting court case asks whether "sex was the murder weapon".
- The Peeping Tom: Frank spies on Rebecca as she's doing acupuncture, getting a view of her Toplessness from the Back.
- Rape as Drama: At one point Frank snaps and rapes Rebecca after she had once again tried to take control by handcuffing him.
- Red Herring: Standard procedure for this sort of film. About halfway through the trial, evidence surfaces that implicates Joanne, the victim's secretary—dated him, was hurt and angry when he dumped her for Rebecca, also stood to inherit. Of course, she's innocent.
- Sex Goddess: Rebecca's sexual prowess is actually one of the main plot points, as she's being accused of being so good at sex that she used it to kill a man.
- Slut-Shaming: Delaney tells Rebecca she'll have difficulty as the local citizens who form the jury are conservative and thus strongly disapprove of her unapologetic sex life. He manages to get her off despite this, but the narrative seems to enforce this as she really did do it.
- Smug Snake: Rebecca pulls off an almost flawless inheritance scam, but she gets way too cocky at the end when she attempts to throw her fellow conspirator under the bus and proceeds to mock him for thinking she really loved him. He swiftly murders her in response.
- The Vamp: Rebecca uses her sexual prowess to manipulate Frank, Paley and Marsh.Rebecca: (to Paley) "I fucked you, I fucked Andrew, I fucked him (Frank), because that's what I do. I fuck."
- Wham Shot: While reviewing the sex tape of Rebecca and the victim, Dulaney and his investigator let it run on... and find that he taped over one of him and Joanne.