Film review: FATALE by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The stylish but predictable infidelity thriller Fatale is, as its title suggests, just a modern-day reboot of films like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.  The film also sees a return to the ‘evil woman’ sub-genre which feels a little uncomfortable given recent progress in sexual politics.

Here, Michael Ealy (Barbershop, 2 Fast 2 Furious) plays celebrity sports agent Derrick Tyler who seems to have an ideal life with a successful business, the trappings of wealth and a stunning wife (Damaris Lewis).  Unwisely, he decides to attend a bachelor party trip to Vegas which, as every film fan knows, invariably leads to disaster.  In a moment of weakness, the normally reserved and faithful Derrick has a one-night stand with a mysterious and slightly creepy woman named Valerie (Hilary Swank), a mistake that sees his perfect world start to unravel.  Following a violent home invasion Derrick discovers to his horror that the investigating detective is none other than Valerie.  Fear of exactly what she wants from him and whether she’s prepared to expose his cheating to his wife, plunges Derrick into a world of anxiety, sexual blackmail and murder.

Just about any viewer will know within the first 10 minutes exactly how this film will play out.  That lack of mystery largely deprives Fatale of thrills and tension.  Director Deon Taylor and scriptwriter David Loughery (who wrote Star Trek: The Final Frontier back in ’89) attempt to weave in some other elements including a red herring in the form of Derrick’s ex-con cousin (Tyrin Turner) and a sub-plot about Valerie’s custody battle with former husband and corrupt politician (Danny Pino) but these aren’t particularly effective.

Still, this film at least offers some superficial pleasures.  Director Taylor and cinematographer Dante Spinotti deliver a visually impressive film, carefully constructing Derrick’s enviable but fragile life with his pristine upmarket Hollywood Hills apartment full of clean, shiny, angular surfaces and high-tech gadgets.  Also, through techniques such as moody lighting and atmospheric music Taylor attempts to infuse the film with noir elements.  Unfortunately, this film comes across more like Tony Scott than John Huston.

Strong performances, though, help get this slick but still creaky film over the line (just). Hilary Swank is particularly impressive as the whip smart and threateningly icy corrupt cop Valerie.   Michael Ely also makes a sympathetic yet appropriately flawed and anxious male lead.

There’s almost nothing revelatory about this film but for its modest and very familiar aims its passable entertainment.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Thriller.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Deon Taylor.

Release date: 6th May 2021.

Running time: 102 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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