If you’re itching for a sleazy 80’s-styled thriller full of terrible unlikable people, boy do I have the movie for you. “Fatale” fits that description to the T and it makes no apologies about it. Directed by Deon Taylor from a script by David Loughery, “Fatale” at first brings thoughts of “Fatal Attraction” to mind. You know the story, a supposed “good guy” makes a “mistake” with a crazy unhinged woman who then terrorizes him and threatens the life he’s forced to protect. I never really bought the idea in that 1987 film and I don’t buy it here either.
“Fatale” deserves credit for eventually cutting the cord with “Fatal Attraction” and going its own way. That doesn’t suddenly make it a great movie or make some of the character’s decision-making any smarter. But it does make it come across as something more than a knock-off. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t really have a gauge to tell it when to slow down. So we get an overheated story with more twists than a pack of Twizzlers. There is some ‘giggle to yourself’ entertainment￼ to be had and enough narrative propulsion to have you wondering how things will turn out. But that’s about it.
Michael Ealy (who teamed with Taylor earlier this year in the flawed but considerably better “The Intruder”) plays Derrick Tyler, a former basketball star turned successful Los Angeles sports agent. If you need proof of his success look no further than his lavish ultra-modern home, his shiny imported sports car, and his posh GQ-ready attire. He lives the good life with his super-model caliber wife Tracie (nicely played by real-life model Damaris Lewis) who has a thriving real estate business of her own. If the old saying went “money DOES buy happiness” then this would be one incredibly happy couple. Instead there’s an obvious disconnect between them which is obvious from the start.
While in Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party Derrick meets, flirts, and eventually has a one-night-stand with a woman named Val (a noticeably miscast Hillary Swank). Apparently in the world of “Fatale” adultery has magical properties because suddenly Derrick is all about being a better husband to Tracie (Actually it’s probably his guilt which in reality can dramatically change a person’s perspectives). While wrapping up a night of wining, dining and rekindling the fire with Tracie an intruder breaks into their home. Derrick fights the masked man off who then runs away into the night.
The police arrive and their investigation is led by none other than Detective Valerie Quinlan. Yep “Val” from Las Vegas. And just like the movie shoots down the myth that “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”. Poorly veiled swerves and misdirections abound as Derrick finds himself in neck-deep trying to save his marriage and his fortune from a sociopath with a badge. But as is often the case, things aren’t always as they appear. Still, no number of plot twists solve what really is the movie’s biggest problem – woefully shallow characters.
The movie does try to bring some depth to Quinlan by introducing some backstory involving an ugly custody battle. But Swank plays her so dryly that it’s hard to invest in her either as a victim or a villain. It’s not a bad performance, she’s just working at the wrong temperature. Meanwhile Ealy just moves from scene to scene in various states of shock and the script hits him with one twist after another. The closest we get to depth with him are scenes involving his family and that’s not much.
“Fatale” may work as throwaway entertainment for those with some time to kill on a Saturday night. And what can I say, it kept my attention. But other than pulling the rug out from under us in every other scene, it doesn’t have much up its sleeve. Even casting a two-time Academy Award winner can’t bring the movie the oomph it needs. “Fatale” is now showing in theaters.
VERDICT – 2 STARS