Review: Fatale

Score:  C-

Director:  Deon Taylor

Cast:  Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Tyrin Turner

Running Time:  102 Minutes

Rated:  R

"I thought we were playing a game."

Hilary Swank has been nominated for two Oscars: 1999's Boys Don't Cry and 2004's Million Dollar Baby. She won both times. Why she is even reading the script for a film like Fatale is beyond me; however, it's 2020.

Tabbed as a psychological thriller, Deon Taylor's Fatale is actually a rudimentary and highly calculable cat and mouse game where modern era technology and honest perspective could have ended the story some seven minutes in.

Derrick (Michael Ealy), a successful sports agent who bypassed the corporate game to build his own brand, watches as his seemingly perfect life seems to disappear after a wild one-night stand during a trip to Vegas.

Unbeknownst to him, the woman in question (Hilary Swank) is a detective who looks to have a string of issues of her own, most notably anger, alcoholism, and the loss of trust with her family. Painstakingly determined to get what she wants, she entangles Derrick in her latest investigation, stopping at nothing to tie up loose ends and regain the one thing she can't seem to get back: her daughter.

Featuring a life filled with sleek, sexy, luxurious things, Fatale spends a lot of time working to impress you visually as it builds upon the spectacle and allusion of the perfect life. It's an age-old approach that allows the forthcoming demise of Derrick's picture-perfect existence to be more substantial. It's intended to help you connect to our main protagonist and wish for his recovery, two things that never materialize.

2009's Obsessed, 2017's Unforgettable, and 2020's Fatal Affair are popular films that use a similar approach. The comparison is not a compliment.

The crash, meant to paint Derrick as a victim, is hardly effective as the onslaught of hardships that occur are nothing more than self-inflicted wounds. The film's story maintains its comfortable position, refusing to venture off the pre-destined path as it works its way through a set of obstacles towards a destined altercation and eventual conclusion. The film becomes further hampered by painfully unnatural dialogue, a questionable lack of context, and an unacceptable disconnect from those of us watching.

Swank provides the film with an occasional heartbeat; however, she cannot save the entire picture. Her performance sticks out, rising high above the rest as she attempts to work within the harsh structural confines of David Loughery's script. She deserves better than this, and her efforts, though well-intended, fall flat.

Ealy doesn't earn the same acknowledgment. Though a highly regarded actor in his own right, he fails to expand on his one-dimensional character, never venturing outside the proverbial box. We never feel for him or worry about his safety. His delivery is typical, his actions predictable, both of which seal the film's fate early on.

Though there is an audience that will appreciate what Fatale offers, it isn't large. Much like Obsession, which I still hail as a work of comedic genius, it will likely be remembered for all the wrong reasons and hopefully has Swank reevaluate her future projects. We all know she is better than this.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.