God, I love a good thriller. There's something about the film genre that I revel in; I love being led down the garden path with (hopefully) no idea where the final destination is. There's no doubt that 'Fatale' keeps you guessing, but do the other elements of the film distract from its twisted plot?
Successful Derrick (Michael Ealy, 'Think Like a Man', 'Barbershop'), once happily married but now in a rut, heads to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. He meets Val (Hilary Swank, 'Million Dollar Baby', 'Boys Don't Cry'), and the two end up sleeping together. Upon returning home to LA, Derrick's house is broken into - and it just so happens that the lead detective on the case is Val. But is her reappearance a coincidence, or is there something more sinister at play?
Director Deon Taylor ('Black and Blue', 'Meet the Blacks') had an ambitious project on his hands. With a low budget - just US$6.6 million - and a major star on board in Swank, Taylor had to find a way to pull off Derrick's billion-dollar lifestyle convincingly while still providing audiences with a quality level of production.
And for the most part, it's not a bad ride. The script from David Loughery ('The Intruder') is fairly solid and reasonably entertaining, if perhaps relying a little too heavily on the tropes of the thriller genre. The story is also a little too convenient, but it plays out enjoyably.
The cast are all certainly adequate. Swank is perfect as the stoic cop, offering enough shade to keep audiences guessing at her character's motivations. Ealy is solid in the lead role, though never shines in the way Swank does. Damaris Lewis ('BlacKkKlansman') as Tracie, Derrick's wife, is actually the standout performance; she's absolutely gripping in the handful of scenes she appears in.
Swank is perfect as the stoic cop, offering enough shade to keep audiences guessing at her character's motivations. Ealy is solid in the lead role, though never shines in the way Swank does.
The production, however, is where the film's low budget shows. It feels dated, like a throwback to the '90s. There's uneven lighting, inconsistent cinematography, and frequently disjointed editing. Geoff Zanelli ('Maleficent: Mistress of Evil', 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales') gives us a score that's nothing short of a cheap rip-off of 'The Game' with its threatening piano keys. It's these elements that betray the film's slim financial situation.
It's always disappointing when a film has all the potential to be something special, but misses its mark. 'Fatale' aims high but falls into mediocrity, telling us a story but never really initiating the spark to bring it to life. It's a shame, because with a little more intensity, this could have been a truly electric thriller.