The Generic Ferocity of A Woman Scorned: Fatale (2021) - Reviewed

images courtesy Lionsgate

The suburban erotic thriller sub-genre of the '90s make an encore appearance in this week's cinematic and streaming release of Fatale starring Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy. With many theaters still shuttered or at extremely limited capacity, this one is best watched in the comfort of your own abode because it's definitely not worth risking your life over. 

Returning to the steamy days of films like Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction and dozens of others, director Deon Taylor abandons his previous human trafficking effort Traffik for a high stakes game of cat and mouse that centers around a mean spirited female cop (Swank) and a married man played by the always entertaining Ealy. With Swank doing her damnedest to move ahead with a full career resurgence, she's wholly miscast as a bonkers femme fatale that has it out for her one night stand. The last year has seen her take up the lead in multiple projects including the political satire, The Hunt. Her talents were much better served there as she is strangely awkward playing the sexually driven, Detective Val Quinlan, an emotionally volatile cop with a mysterious past that's probably going to come back to haunt her. 

Fatale plays like a dire do over of so many other movies, it becomes nearly comical at times. There is nothing original here whatsoever. The script is poorly written and easy to solve with no thought whatsoever. If not for some decent performances all around, this one might be better off seen when it hits Amazon Prime or Netflix for free. It's shocking that Swank, a two time Oscar winner signed up for something so predictable and under calculated. Considering this 'movie' was moved or delayed several times due to the COVID pandemic, it does serve the purpose of entertaining with a few tension laced moments but is altogether something better left for a night when you're looking for passive entertainment like a Hallmark movie or a Dollar Tree blu-ray deal. A rental or ticket is not really suggested. 

hilary swank

As easy as it is to bag on the storytelling aspects of Fatale, it does succeed at looking great. Dante Spinotti (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Insider, and L.A. Confidential) worked as the cinematographer and paints another amazing look at the West Coast as only he can. Some of the shots bring us directly back to a better time in cinema, only to be let down by a bare bones story that truly rips almost every plot point from another, far greater entry in a long line of thrillers about men and women doing the nasty then finding new and interesting ways to violently hurt each other. 

I went into this with my eyes wide open. It's really too bad that this was such a mess. Taylor is a gracious and talented man. Fatale is a miscalculated effort that doesn't do anything new or original with the flailing designation it looks to fulfill. Swank and Ealy outperform the scripting problems, but it's not enough to turn around an otherwise empty spirited movie that walks the fine line between mediocre and really, really bad. For all those involved, please do better.