The trashy Fatale is a latter day noir thriller that’s part Fatal Attraction and part Basic Instinct. But the longer it goes the more convoluted its plotting becomes and some plot twists become a little too unbelievable.
Derrick (Michael Ealy) is a sports agent who has built a successful business with his best friend Rafe (Mike Colter). He has a great life, with a luxurious, sprawling house in the Hollywood Hills with a superb view of Los Angeles, he drives luxury sports cars, and has a beautiful wife with Traci (Damaris Lewis). There is a multi-million dollar offer on the table to buy the business, but Derrick resists. He grows suspicious of Traci’s nocturnal business meetings and begins to suspect that she is having an affair. Then he and Roger travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. There he flirts with the beautiful Val (Hilary Swank). He tells her that his name is Darren and that he is from Seattle – the first of many deceptions thrown up in the sinuous script from David Loughery (a veteran of this genre having written films like Lakeview Terrace). The one-night stand though comes back to haunt him in lethal fashion.
Back in LA he is woken one night by the sounds of disturbance in his house and he interrupts what he thinks is a burglary. The police arrive and then turn the investigation over to a detective. Derrick is shocked to discover that Val is the detective in charge of the case. While she assures him that what happened in Vegas stays in Vegas he grows uncomfortable with her presence. Val was once a highly respected and decorated detective until her life went off the rails in controversial circumstances. Now a recovered alcoholic she is in the midst of a contentious custody dispute with her former husband (Danny Pino), an up-and-coming politician embroiled in a very public scandal. Val begins to ingratiate herself into Derrick’s life and seduces him into a very intricate web of murder and betrayal. He soon finds himself ensnared in her complex and lethal scheme to gain custody of her daughter and learns that his one little discretion has the potential to ruin his life, and maybe even kill him. He has to somehow outwit the desperate Val to survive.
Director Deon Taylor wears his 80s influences on his sleeve here. His slick and efficient approach keeps the film moving, glossing over the more ridiculous elements of the narrative. Numerous red herrings along the way – including Derrick’s troubled ex-con cousin (Tyrin Turner) – add spice to the formulaic script. Some glorious cinematography from Dante Spinotti gives the film a glossy surface, while Charlie Campbell’s production design is also good.
Swank has won two Oscars (for Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby), and here she plays a manipulative femme fatale. She brings a hard edge to her performance as the unsympathetic and unlikable Val but she seems to relish this opportunity to play against type. Ealy (The Intruder) brings a desperation to his performance.
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Greg King has had a life long love of films. He has been reviewing popular films for over 15 years. Since 1994, he has been the film reviewer for BEAT magazine. His reviews have also appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper, S-Press, Stage Whispers, and a number of other magazines, newspapers and web sites. Greg contributes to The Blurb on film