For years, rumors circulated about a possible 9 1/2 Weeks sequel. After all, the original was a huge hit overseas and on video, and the novel upon which it was based had already inspired a literary sequel. This past year has finally seen the release of two direct-to-video semi-sequels: The first, Another 9 1/2 Weeks, featured a washed-up Mickey Rourke reprising his role from the original film, but, title aside, it's difficult to ascertain exactly how The First 9 1/2 Weeks relates to the other two films. Its title would indicate that it's some sort of a prequel to 9 1/2 Weeks, but not only does the film take place over 10 years later; it doesn't even feature any characters from the first film. What the movies do share is plenty of the sort of soft-focus, vanilla SM that made the original the Citizen Kane of mid-'80s, mainstream soft-core pornography. The First 9 1/2 Weeks stars Australian actor Paul Mercurio (Strictly Ballroom, Exit To Eden) as an uptight New York businessman who travels to hot 'n' spicy New Orleans to try to win his firm the opportunity to handle the business dealings of an eccentric, drunken millionaire (Malcolm McDowell) who can no longer sexually satisfy his sexy young wife (Clara Bellar). As anybody who has ever seen an erotic thriller will guess, Mercurio and Bellar end up having a torrid affair, which, it should be noted, lasts only a few days, and certainly not anywhere near nine and a half weeks. A scenery-chewing McDowell gives an entertainingly demented performance, and the film features a nifty trick ending, but all in all, The First 9 1/2 Weeks is both stupid and unerotic, playing like a 90-minute episode of Red Shoe Diaries. It should disappoint even the least discriminating consumers of soft-core porn.

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