In 18th century France, Marquise de Merteuil asks her ex-lover Vicomte de Valmont to seduce the future wife of another ex-lover of hers in return for one last night with her. Yet things don’t go as planned.
Rewatch after a decade or so. I had ideas this would be a fun Sunday night romp so to speak, but it has at least three or four really dark moments. Indeed, the film's lack of control over its own tone is surely a deliberate mirroring of the dangerous admixture of seduction and revenge...
There's a sublime perversity in Frears' casting, especially that of Malkovich. With his coarse jackal's face and lisping effeminacy, Malkovich seems the unlikeliest of Don Juans. But Malkovich brings a fascinating dimension to his character that would be missing with a more conventionally handsome leading man. His presence underlines just how small a role physical beauty plays in seduction.
— Hal Hinson (Washington Post)