What follows are some random thoughts on Bad Influence. Stress on "random".
We are given little in the way of motive for what Alex does. We know he was sinister, in some way, before meeting Michael, that's about all. Alex keeps repeating that Michael "asked for this". Just as he forms Michael into the "take no shit" man his corporate success demands, Alex alludes to a certain hatred for this game, and perhaps punishes Michael for his weakness in even playing it. Like an evil version of The Secret, Alex tells Michael to "make it happen", then terrorizes to make it so, "covering his bases" all the while.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
In the scene that starts the process, Alex sits in the almost kitsch Venetian shadows (behind bars) and says "Tell me what you want, Mick."
Michael is confused and Hesitant. "Mick?"
"Tell me what you want, what you're afraid of." He is still in shadow.
Michael is still hesitant to tell him. He stumbles.
Then, moving away from the shadow, Alex says "Just for fun, come on, tell me, what are you afraid of?"
This frees Michael from his hesitation. "I'm afraid of getting married, I guess." They discuss it. "Done." says Alex.
Alex then moves back into the shadow. It is a closer shot. The shadow seems more prominent.
"Now tell me what you want more than anything else in the world."
Michael isn't hesitant anymore. Alex is in. He can present his dark side and get a response. Michael reveals that he wants the senior analyst position.
"Drink to it. Make it happen", commands Alex. They toast.
"Make it happen" repeats Michael. Alex smiles.
Alex can be viewed as a manifestation of "passive excess". Passive, in that Michael has no attachment to his 'stuff'. This 'stuff' representing the byproduct of corporate greed. Alex uses this stuff to wreak havoc in Michael's world.
Alex scans Michael's 'stuff'. "Very nice." he says low. Spots the golf clubs. He laughs to himself. "Do you play?", he asks.
"No. Never" answers Michael.
He doesn't play golf. Why does he have the clubs? Just because it's what he thinks he should have?
When Alex takes his stuff away, Michael wants it back, only because "it's mine", but just as easily tells Alex to "keep it". "So the stuff makes us even?" "Yeah", answers Michael, "the stuff makes us even." This forces Alex to take it to the next level. He has to take away other 'stuff'. With the unused golf club, a symbol of corporate recreation and excess (and Michael's passive excess), Alex kills Claire.
THE VIDEO CAMERA
"Why did you get this?" asks Michael's brother as he stares into the video camera.
"I don't know, it was on sale".
"Do you need it?"
"That's not the point"
What does Micheal mean? What IS the point. Is it that Michael feels he has to have it, that this is what people like him have in their lives? Even though he can't produce a reason why he has it.
Pismo senses the trouble with it.
"You better give it away. Cut your losses", he says.
"You're not making any sense."
Alex uses this camera to 'help' remove that which Michael is afraid of...
...then terrorizes him with it.
Finally, Michael turns it on Alex.
I find this shot, one of the last, to be very interesting. Michael staring into the mysterious waters that Alex's body never rose from. He is basically staring into the mystery that is (was) Alex. "The cops won't believe this guy even exists" was Pismo's worry. The camera, the only thing that will save him now, sits next to Michael.