Romantic suspense as a genre is a difficult one to define. The main differences between romantic suspense and more normalised romance movies can be seen the in the setting and events of the films. Often with a romantic suspense film, the romance between a couple is ‘suspended’ due to more pressing issues relating to the situation of the film, these being of a more action, adventure or crime slant. Notable examples of this genre are Body Heat (1981), Bird on a Wire (1990), Knight and Day (2010) and many more.
The action genre is a one that branches over into many other, often times surprising genres. After a year and a half spent researching the action genre for my abandoned PH.D, the genre and all its off shoots is one that I still manage to find interesting and entertaining. The romantic suspense genre, while not being widely acknowledged nor defined, is one that nevertheless remains a staple of the film industry.
So armed with this knowledge and my romantically inclined nature, I would like to share my top five romantic suspense films.
- In fifth place is the 2010 release, Red.
Featuring an all-star cast, this film is one that I initially underestimated. Being somewhat familiar with Warren Ellis whose graphic novel the film is very loosely based on, I was not expecting the sweet yet action packed story that Red delivers.
Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a lonely and listless man whose only happiness comes from calling his pension case worker, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds fame). Sarah, equally bored, lonely and an avid trashy romance reader, also counts Franks calls as the only interesting things in her life. It is once the movie moves past the first act that the action begins to kick in as Franks deals with an assassination attempt and the ensuing dangers.
Without giving away too much of the plot, Franks rescues Sarah from a similar fate and meets up with a few of his old working buddies. The following film is sweet, action packed and features a take-charge, gun-toting, Oscar-winning Helen Mirren.
- In fourth place is the controversial Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).
The plot follows that of a bored married couple, Jane (Angelina Jolie) and John (Brad Pitt) Smith, who eventually come to realise that they are competing assassins. After the pair discover this fact, the race is on as they both try to kill, then save each other; all the while working on their marital problems.
With all the controversy surrounding this film I was prepared to be disappointed, however, I could not have been more wrong. Mr & Mrs. Smith proves to be not only entertaining but filled emotions as well as flying bullets. The home wrecking chemistry between Pitt and Jolie coupled with the superbly crafted writing is what makes this film.
If you haven’t seen it yet, or if you’re not too much of a fan of romance or action films, go out and see this film as there is more than enough to satisfy the biggest fan of both.
- Taking out third place is The Mummy (1999).
The tongue-in-cheek humour and cheesiness of this film has got to be the biggest draw card. The meek and bookish Evelyn ‘Evy’ Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) enlists the help of ex-solider/prisoner Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frasier) to find the fabled Egyptian city of Hamunaptra. The city is one shrouded in mystery and is, unbeknownst to most, the ancient resting place of a cursed mummy.
This is a film that can watched over and over again without loosing its charm. The sheer awkward and appealing nature of the characters as they fall in love is one that is particularly enjoyable. As far as I am concerned the story flows terrifically with the romance feeling natural and the action being fast paced, featuring just enough scarab beetles and mummy induced mayhem.
Despite it’s less than satisfactory sequels, The Mummy is simply a good time, one could even say ‘a very good time.’
- Taking second place is Romancing the Stone (1984).
Romance writer Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) travels out of her comfort zone to visit Columbia in order to rescue her ransomed sister, and in amongst the chaos meets would-be treasure hunter Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). Hijinks ensue as Joan becomes lost and Jack helps her find her way back to civilisation as well as trying to get his hands on her treasure map.
Romancing the Stone, is not only a romantically charged adventure film but it is also a funny, and well humoured one. Moments from the film, such as the famous landslide scene and the inclusion of Joan Wilder fans, are ones that really flesh out and make this film great. Michael Douglas, who also appears in one of my favourite films Wonder Boys (2000), delivers a wonderful performance as the flippant Jack Colton. Danny DeVito also has a stand out role as the ill treated bad guy, the chemistry and familiar way that Douglas and DeVito interact is one that really ties the film together. The storyline and romance between Joan and Jack is one that I feel encapsulates the romantic suspense film. Not only is there action, but the comparative differences between the romance in Joan’s novels to that of the ‘reality’ of the film is one that make this film a pleasure to watch.
If you haven’t seen this movie you are really missing out on an old-school gem.
The knowledge of how bad this genre can be is one that keeps me coming back for more. The sheer amount of cringe worthy moments, often inspired by the dialogue and actions between the romantic pairs, is what makes this genre so good and such a guilty pleasure. What more is a romantic suspense film meant to do but provide a fantastical and surreal arena for a couple to fall in love, one that audiences at home can revel in?
So far in this post, films have seen the wrath of a mummy, a treasure hunt in Columbia and not one but two blood filled shoot em’ ups. The romantic suspense genre is one that shouldn’t be taken too seriously as it often the sheer visual and intrinsic pleasure of the realistically outrageous that make these films so good.
- Having said that, my number one pick for best romantic suspense film is The Saint (1997).
Simon Templar (Val Kilmer), a world renown thief who uses the names of Catholic Saints to create false identities, is hired by the Russian Mafia to steal the formula of cold fusion from brilliant scientist Emma Russell (Elizabeth Shue). After loving and leaving her, Simon returns to Russia to hand over the formula only to find that Emma has followed him. The rest of the film is an action packed race through Moscow to try and recover the formula and bring down the head Mafia boss Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija).
Kilmer’s shifting character, terrible Australian accent and coldly charismatic Simon keeps you hooked as you watch this ever transitioning character slowly come to appreciate, respect, then love Emma. The strength that the ‘weak’ scientist Emma shows after such stressful moments is great, and the almost out-smarting of Simon is one that kept me smiling throughout, albeit it with a shake of the head.
The music, the beautiful city of Moscow, and all the cringe worthy but still heart warming moments are what make this film. If you haven’t seen this movie, I could not recommend a more action packed, wistful smile inducing film.