American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I've seen comedies with fewer laughs than "Body of Evidence," and this is a movie that isn't even trying to be funny. It's an excruciatingly incompetent entry in the "Basic Instinct" genre, filled with lines that only a screenwriter could love, and burdened with a plot that confuses mystery with confusion.
The movie stars Madonna, who after "Bloodhounds of Broadway," "Shanghai Surprise" and "Who's That Girl?" now nails down her title as the queen of movies that were bad ideas right from the beginning. She plays a kinky dominatrix involved in ingenious and hazardous sex with an aging millionaire who has a bad heart. He dies after an evening's entertainment, and Madonna is charged with his murder.
But she's innocent, she protests - and indeed there is another obvious suspect, the millionaire's private secretary (Anne Archer), who is also his spurned former lover. Willem Dafoe plays the defense attorney who firmly believes Madonna is innocent, or in any event very sexy, and Joe Mantegna has the Hamilton Burger role.
The movie takes place in Portland, Ore. - a city small enough, Madonna volunteers from the witness stand, that she once dated a guy who dated a girl who dated Mantegna. That's a typical exchange in the courtroom scenes, which involve Dafoe being reprimanded by the judge for just about every breath he draws.