Review: In 'Fatal Affair,' Nia Long and Omar Epps visit Glenn Close territory
The ultimate in well-acted, shamelessly derivative streaming options, the "Fatal Attraction" variant "Fatal Affair" comes under Netflix's own website descriptors as SOAPY (yep), PSYCHOLOGICAL (meaning, a fair bit of killing and implied sex but in the TV-14 range) and SUSPENSEFUL (patently untrue).
Adultery thrillers such as this begin with forbidden desire; middle with regrets and stalking; and end with blood all over the high-rent district. If it's not Jennifer Lopez falling for a pair of forearms in "The Boy Next Door," it's Idris Elba stepping out on Beyonce in "Obsessed." Truly, this project's primary uncredited source material, "Fatal Attraction," has turned out to be a gift with endless regifting possibilities.
In a change from the Michael Douglas/Glenn Close/my romantic mistake must die! smash released in 1987, the risky affair throwing the main character's life into sleek hell is not consummated. There is, however, an abbreviated ladies' restroom tryst in a nightclub where, conveniently, no one comes in to pee or check their makeup.
That scene's quick. Everything happens quickly in "Fatal Affair," since it's all plot and no character. These movies are what they are: disposable; full of shiny, unstained, high-end kitchen countertops; and laden with visual reminders about why you shouldn't dally with a psychotic, murderous stalker, especially if he makes his living as a computer hacker.
In "Fatal Affair," David is indeed a corporate hacker for hire, played by Omar Epps. Nia Long, around whom this Netflix programmer was built, plays legal eagle Ellie, an attorney with a daughter (Aubrey Cleland) off at UC-Berkeley. At the office one day (remember those?), Ellie bumps into surveillance whiz David 20 years after they were friends in college. They split a bottle of wine, they dance, David follows a frazzled Ellie into the loo, and boom: not quite an affair, but strong intimations of fatal.
Handily, Ellie and architect husband Marcus (Stephen Bishop, effective in a reactive role) have just closed on an isolated, oceanside home near San Francisco. This makes David's campaign easier in terms of bush-lurker surveillance, with requisite POV camerawork. It's not all night work: Soon, David is palling around with Marcus on the golf course, while Ellie warns a coworker (Maya Stojan) that David's only dating her to get close to Ellie.
Long and Epps, first on screen together 21 years ago in "In Too Deep," do what they can with the verbal cardboard and the narrative packing peanuts. One word into a typical line of dialogue, and the audience can mouth the rest of it along with the characters. If Long starts a line with "Us?!" there's only one possible follow-up sentence: "There is no us!" And if movies like this are comfort food, "Fatal Affair" goes against every pandemic lockdown regulation and announces, defiantly: The buffet is open for business.
No rabbits were fake-harmed in the making of "Fatal Affair," as they were, memorably, in "Fatal Attraction," but co-writer and director Peter Sullivan, who collaborated on the script with Rasheeda Garner, knows a gift-wrapped inspiration when he sees one. Sullivan's prolific resume, for the record, includes directing 14 separate films with the word "Christmas," "Jingle" or "Santa" in the title. Can "Fatal Affair 2: Christmas Stalking Stuffer" be far behind?
Running time: 1:29
Streaming on Netflix
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