In the most ludicrous episode of Lizzie Borden’s Love Crimes, Sean Young, playing an Atlanta district attorney who has been taken captive by the man she?s out to prosecute — a dark seducer (Patrick Bergin) who gets off on photographing women and intimidating them into bed — finally escapes the closet in which she has been locked away for hours. She knows the man’s identity, where he lives, what his whole power-porn game is. But does she attempt to get away and call the police? No. She comes at her foe, Psycho-style, with a kitchen knife; moments later, she’s been taken prisoner once again. What happens in this scene has nothing to do with plausibility or drama and everything to do with Borden’s desire to portray women as eternal victims of male sexual malevolence, as unwitting participants in their own victimization, and as clandestine avengers just waiting for a chance to strike back.

Love Crimes is a piece of feminist kink, a didactic exploitation movie that wants to have its cheap thrills and wag its finger at them, too. Young, who sports an androgynous haircut and delivers every line in a disaffected zombie twang (she sounds like she’s on Thorazine), goes undercover because none of the women Bergin has seduced will come forward to testify. She then discovers she’s fascinated, maybe even attracted, by this demonic charmer. That’s a good taking-off point for an erotic thriller — after all, people’s sexual desires often rub up against their better judgment. Yet since Young?s plan isn’t rooted in any legal logic (if anything, it would result in a clear of entrapment), nothing in the film quite makes sense.

Bergin keeps passing himself off as a Vogue photographer, and he sometimes steals his victims’ cars. Other than that, virtually nothing he does is against the law. The absurdity of the movie is built right into premise: Young seems to want to prosecute Bergin not because he’s criminal but because he’s a macho misogynist. The story is framed as a diatribe against his attitude toward women — his Polaroid sleaziness, his whole aura of danger and mastery. In Love Crimes, the real fantasy Lizzie Borden is selling is that sexuality, if it’s nasty and exploitative enough, is a crime in itself. C