Review by Sean Boelman
Deon Taylor’s schlocky thrillers are probably the most unlikely contenders to have ever received an unironic awards campaign (despite often being panned by critics), but they are fun for what they are. His latest, the unabashed homage (or maybe rip-off) Fatale, may not be very good, but it has a certain popcorn movie charm nevertheless.
The film tells the story of a married man who, after a one-night stand, finds himself to be a part of a police officer’s investigation that threatens to derail his entire life. Down to the title, it’s clear that this movie is basically a rehash of Fatal Attraction, but the issue is that erotic thrillers like this just don’t play as well as they did in 1987.
David Loughery (who also collaborated with Taylor on the much less entertaining The Intruder) penned the script, and his biggest mistakes are in the characterization. On one hand, he tries to make the femme fatale into a more compelling character with a subplot, which is emotionally confusing, and on the other, he further demonizes the protagonist.
Perhaps the most aggravating thing about this film is that it tries to be something more, but it struggles to do so. The opportunity was right there for this to focus on the injustices of the police and justice system to people of color, but instead, these ideas are largely relegated to an outro speech as the credits begin to roll.
Still, there is something entertaining about watching this game of cat-and-mouse. The first thirty minutes take a bit of time to get moving, spending a bit too long on the steamy romance side of the erotic thriller, but once the criminal elements come into play, it’s much more fun, even if it is entirely predictable.
The performances are inarguably the best part of this movie. Even though Michael Ealy and Hillary Swank have next to no chemistry together, they each give strong individual turns. Swank is so off-the-walls in her performance that it’s not really clear exactly what she was trying to do, but it’s enjoyable to watch how wacky she gets.
Taylor’s directorial style here, even more so than usual, screams that he desperately wants to be cool. From the outright painful hip-hop needle drops to the shiny cars that get extended close-ups, Taylor wants the audience to know that these people are rich and attractive. It’s a shame, because there are some legitimately decent suspense-building tactics that are undermined by these attempts to be stylish.
Fatale certainly isn’t a particularly original film, but as mindless pulp, it mostly delivers. It’s worth watching if only for the opportunity to get to see an out-of-the-box performance from Hillary Swank.
Fatale is now playing in theaters.
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