The 400-Word Review: Fatale

By Sean Collier

January 9, 2021


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Remarkable only in how unremarkable it is, the flat thriller “Fatale” is not technically deficient in any meaningful way.

That, I believe, is the highest compliment I have for it.

Within its subgenre, basic proficiency does count as an achievement. Preposterousness is practically a prerequisite when it comes to this breed of tense, affairs-of-the-heart (among other organs) mystery; while the good ones maintain enough credibility to allow identification with the poor protagonist, many are notable only for the unintended guffaws they elicit.

“Fatale” rises above derision; you can certainly watch it with passing interest. That’s about all it will muster, but points for competence, I suppose.

Derrick Tyler (Michael Ealy) has built a nouveau-riche kingdom, complete with ostentatious car and preposterous house, as an upstart sports agent in Los Angeles. His marriage isn’t quite so shiny, however; his wife, Tracie (Damaris Lewis), seems mildly resentful of his success. On the basis of very scant evidence, Derrick suspects she’s having an affair; when he confesses those fears to his best friend and business partner (Mike Colter) during a Vegas weekend, his buddy suggests he put it out of his mind by indulging in his own extramarital activities.


He hooks up with a charming (if bizarrely intense) stranger, Valerie (Hilary Swank). The affair provokes a stock appreciate-what-you’ve-got response, and Derrick heads back home with a renewed appreciation for his wife. Their renaissance is disrupted, however, when a masked stranger breaks in and attacks Derrick. As the couple is being questioned by police, they’re introduced to the detective in charge of the case: Valerie, Derrick’s Vegas fling.

It’s awfully convenient, yes, but remember: In the world of romantic thrillers, everyone you’ve ever met will pop back into your life at a moment that dramatically increases the tension.

Director Deon Taylor, along with Swank and Ealy, are laboring under the impression that “Fatale” is a better film than it is, a boost which lifts it out of mediocrity and into threadbare effectiveness. As far as it works, it works on their will. Writer David Loughery, meanwhile, has written a number of these yarns — “Lakeview Terrace,” “Obsessed,” and last year’s “The Intruder,” also directed by Taylor and starring Ealy — and they all tend toward the quietly compelling, if never scintillating. If confronted with “Fatale” on, say, a mid-length domestic flight, it will gamely fill up the time between drink service and a nap.

My Rating: 6/10

“Fatale” is available via digital on-demand services.



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