Fatale (2020)

*. The title isn’t ironic. This is neo-noir territory, with Michael Ealy as an L.A. playa (he’s a celebrity sports agent) and Hilary Swank as the tough cop who goes from being a one-night stand to a fatal attraction.
*. That link to Fatal Attraction isn’t accidental, as the proceedings here really have a throwback vibe to that period of thriller. The 1980s and ’90s don’t seem so long ago anymore. Is this the cult of nostalgia that so many cultural critics speak of? I suppose the freight elevator to Swank’s ginormous loft is another nod to Adrian Lyne’s movie. Just bleach everything in the L.A. sun and throw in lots of luxury-lifestyle porn and some hip-hop on the soundtrack and we’re totally up to date.
*. Speaking of the ’90s noir and the light of that L.A. sun, the film was shot by Dante Spinotti, who also did Heat (1995) and L.A. Confidential (1997). These things all sort of tie together.
*. I don’t have much to say here. The plot strikes me as beyond improbable, an even bigger stretch than the criss-cross of Strangers on a Train. How did Detective Quinlan think this was going to work? I don’t know.
*. Damaris Lewis looks sensational in evening wear or a bikini. Swank pulls off playing tough as well as seductive. Michael Ealy as the sap seems to be suffering some kind of physical pain just sitting at his desk or driving his fancy car. I don’t know if he thought that was the part or if he only has the one expression. It was disconcerting.
*. An erotic thriller that never manages to thrill or be erotic, despite lots of potential for both. You expect some twists, which come as and when expected so they don’t register much as twists.
*. The main problem though is that when things get raw we still feel like we’re watching reality TV. A similar sort of trick was played in Gone Girl, but that movie was sending up Nick and Amy for being comfortably affluent, shallow, and basically amoral young people. I don’t think satire is on tap here, even though there were moments that I thought might have been very funny had they been played that way. Instead we get glossy nostalgia and a punchline that’s just a swing and a miss.

10 thoughts on “Fatale (2020)

  1. Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote

    Yikes. I hoped it would be based on Ed Brubaker’s Fatale but this doesn’t sound remotely close. I have to admit that the cinematographer on this one worked on some classics though. That could’ve convinced me to try this out but then… the final product sounds bad. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Alex Good Post author

      No such luck this time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if an adaptation of Brubaker’s Fatale is in the works. This also doesn’t have any connection to the Jean-Patrick Manchette novella. The title is really just there to let you know that this is a standard sort of noir story where the lady is bad news. Which actually is a bit of a spoiler for the audience since they could have danced around that a bit more and made it ambiguous. Instead, it’s pretty clear from the start that she’s the villain of the piece.


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