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Review: Hilary Swank is the femme, but is she 'Fatale'?

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"Fatale" is the familiar male movie nightmare of consequences for selfish actions while in a relationship, but through a thriller lens that blows things up. Talk about going from tender to tinder.

Derrick (Michael Ealy) is a successful sports agent in Los Angeles, running a booming firm with his best friend Rafe (Mike Colter). Derrick is married to gorgeous real estate agent Tracie (Damaris Lewis) but they've hit some bumpy road. So what should a concerned, loving husband do? Go to a Vegas bachelor party and get it on with hot stranger Val (Hilary Swank), of course!

No, that doesn't make sense at all, but plot gravity dictates Derrick and Val will be pulled into each other's orbits again. What was supposed to be a one-night stand upends the lives of all involved. There will be blood.

There's an inescapable "Fatal Attraction" vibe to "Fatale," though there's another film from which it more significantly borrows a key plot element (to name it would be telling; let's just say it's a Hitchcock). For the most part, though, "Fatale" finds its own identity. It manages to pack some enjoyable surprises. In fact, knowing less about Val than even the trailer tells audiences would aid the viewing experience.

Suffice to say, one can see why Swank chose the role and produced the film. It's a different part for her, and it's fun to see her in it. The two-time Oscar winner proves again she's a shrewd and versatile performer.

While the action isn't staged in a particularly interesting way, her part in it is executed with conviction. There's one table-turning moment you see coming from a mile away, but the seriousness with which she pulls it off makes it enjoyable anyway.

There's also some clunky writing. The opening narration is not only unnecessary but belongs in some kind of Doggedly Followed Metaphor Hall of Fame. There are awfully convenient occurrences. There's scarce character development beyond Val; Derrick's interesting past is described but not exactly felt, while Val's resonates throughout her choices and actions. Motivations are spelled out in bold, capital letters rather than experienced, again except in Val's case. As Derrick's streetwise cousin, Tyrin Turner is engaging — but the character makes decisions that will have viewers slapping their foreheads. Visually, it's accomplished well by two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti, who updates his "L.A. Confidential" noir vibe along with Charlie Campbell's upscale production design.

While "Fatale" isn't special, it's better than most specimens of the genre due to its turns (again, I recommend skipping the trailer — which also makes it look like a differently made film, one using bolder cinematic techniques) and Swank's exploration of her character.

'FATALE'

Rated: R (for violence, sexual content and language)

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Playing: In limited release where theaters are open; available Jan. 8 on VOD

 

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