Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Fatale’ on VOD, a Tawdry (But Not Tawdry Enough) Thriller

by 24USATVJan. 9, 2021, 2 a.m. 23
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Hold onto yer loins, Fatale is on VOD now, all lubed and ready to steam up your living room. Hillary Swank and Michael Ealy headline this Preposterous Thriller, the subgenre second only to Dead Teenager Movies in punishing people for having sex. Sometimes, Preposterous Thrillers are a guilty pleasure; most of the time, they’re just formulaic. Now let’s see if this one stands above in its preposterousness.

FATALE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Derrick (Ealy) is learning there’s no applicable treatment, OTC or pharmaceutical, for the seven-year itch. Things and crap between him and his wife Micaela (Kali Hawk) are strained. Suspicion abounds: She tends to stay out late with her real estate clients and he tends to stay out late with clients for his mega-successful sports management firm. They live in a high-class modern home with an infinity pool and Very Long Fireplaces, and apparently designed by people who hate soft things. The place has dozens upon dozens of sharp corners. I purposely eyeballed their pillows — disappointingly, they’re not artisanal cinder blocks, just normal pillows, although once, Derrick wakes up and the pillow is directly on the hard bed frame. No wonder he was having Only a Dream so we could be faked out about his being in danger. Must not have had a proper amount of blood going to his brain with his neck bent at such an uncomfortable angle.

I digress. He hops in his Lamborghini, which has its own motorized spinning platform so he doesn’t have to back out of the driveway, and heads to Vegas for a bachelor party. His business partner and best bud Rafe (Mike Colter) notices the furrowed brow of a man worried about the state of his marriage, and encourages him to do something that stays in Vegas. Before we can yell at the screen and tell Derrick that doing so is ill-advised because he’s in a Preposterous Thriller, Valerie (Swank) sits next to him at the bar and begins blasting his flimsy, pure-sugar defenses with a firehose of hotness. They end up kerdoinking back in the hotel room, and the next morning she shows signs of being CCP (Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs) but, oh, it’s probably nothing, move along, move along.

Back in L.A., Derrick attempts to smooth things over with Micaela, and they’re mid-kersploink when they hear a sound in the night coming from the kitchen — an intruder who’s nearly gashed himself on a razorlike countertop edge, perhaps? Maybe, but he sure wants to murder Derrick. Gunshots, punches and assorted elements of struggle ensue. Derrick hammers the bad guy’s head with a 3-wood a couple times and he gets away anyway, probably concussed and with skull fractures and brain damage and internal bleeding, but that’s just me making assumptions. A cop shows up to investigate and whoa nelly, I’ll be damned if it ain’t Val — DETECTIVE Valerie Quinlan, for heck’s sake. We learn a little bit about her, and it’s juicy stuff, like how she used to be married to a powerful local political official and has no custody whatsoever of their daughter because Val used to be a blackout drunk and Something Happened. Of course, she has one up on Derrick because he gave her one a couple times just a couple days ago. Her motivations are opaque, likely because she seems to be a few cards shy of a full deck, and starts sowing the poor guy’s paranoia and reaping the benefits for herself. Cue the preposterousnesses!

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: What if The Hangover was neo-noir was Fatal Attraction?

Performance Worth Watching: Swank and Ealy straight-face it through this witless junk like troopers — well-paid troopers, probably. Swank cuts through some of the crud with an unsettling psycho smile, and almost makes you believe an iota of this crapola. Almost.

Memorable Dialogue: “What you see in the night isn’t always what you see in the day,” Val says, illustrating the film’s inability to give us a halfway-decent double-entendre

Sex and Skin: Is there a word for “softcore where you don’t really see anything, not even a boob”? If there is, Fatale has plenty of that.

Our Take: Fatale is slickly directed, crisply edited, briskly paced, set-designed with an inch of its life and generally watchable. It’s also not nearly as CCP as it could, and probably should, be. It’s tawdry, but stops just shy of being amusingly so. Twice, I made note of cliches (“trouble in paradise,” “what happens in Vegas”) only to hear them emerge moments later in the dialogue, raw, wriggling, stinky and without even a hint of winking irony. The characters are unlikeable, the situations are predictable and it saves any notable tension for about 90 seconds during the climax.

The story is a combination of an Of All The People plot and a Just So Happens To Be plot, and is riddled with enough unlawful entries to jam three heist movies. It deploys one dum-dum twist after another as everything goes to shit for Derrick, then it becomes even shittier shit before it evolves into the shittiest shit that ever was shat. The hole’s so deep, how’s he gonna dig out? The movie writes some checks it can’t cash, ending violently and anticlimactically with a peabrained cliche. It’s one of those movies that would be more interesting if it told the story of what happens after the credits roll, when characters explain the previous absurd events to incredulous authorities and manage to wriggle out of any legal or professional repercussions. THAT would demand the type of creative writing this type of boilerplate thriller so egregiously lacks.

Our Call: SKIP IT. It’s better than a Tyler Perry Preposterous Thriller, but only just.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

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