Director Deon Taylor is still looking for his breakout hit as a director. The last time he teamed up with actor Michael Ealy was 2019’s The Intruder, a film about an obsessed crazy person who seeks to destroy his household and take his place. This brings us to the 2020 film Fatale, a film starring Michael Ealy about an obsessed crazy person who seeks to destroy his household and take his wife’s place.
Fatale is the story of a wealthy Los Angeles sports agent named Derrick Tyler (Michael Ealy). Derrick is on the verge of a big-time buyout of his agency which would land him and his partner millions but Derrick is reluctant to surrender the rights to his name. He is also dealing with a marriage that hits the rocks. Looking to clear his head, Derrick takes a vacation to Las Vegas where he meets a mysterious woman (Hilary Swank) in a nightclub and takes her home for a one-night stand.
Months later, Derrick is attacked in a failed home invasion and to his shock, the lead investigator is the woman he slept in Vegas. Derrick’s life is turned upside down and inside out as a trail of lies consumes him from all angles and hell hath no fury like a burned woman.
Fatale is the cinematic equivalent of a choose your own adventure book. Protagonists and Antagonists have clearly defined motivations which establishes who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Fatale takes the route of creating so many shades of grey that there is no good/bad dynamic because everyone in the film is bad in their own way.
While this sounds like criticism at face value, a film like this turns it into a positive by giving audiences a subjective choice of hero and villain. Whether you root for the rich adultery or the psychopathic cop makes the twisted game of lies and betrayal that much more entertaining. The choice of who to sympathize with means that audiences will have polarized reactions to the curveballs the film will throw.
Hillary Swank is a piece of work that makes the film work. Swank’s portrayal of the dirty cop that stays one step ahead of everyone makes her a de facto protagonist. You could be led to believe that this is simply another Fatal Attraction knock off if you only watched the previews. Without going over the top, Swank sells the conviction of a person who has no line she won’t cross to get what she wants. A person who uses a hapless man far over his head to get what she wants rather than win his heart.
The film is short on supporting characters with more than one note. With a complete absence of morality, Fatale makes it difficult to connect with anyone emotionally. As a writer, David Loughery focuses more of his time fiddling with the plot than building a connection with the people on screen. Michael Ealy has a strong enough screen presence to be a recognizable figure in the world of black cinema but he ends up playing second fiddle in his own movie. Mike Colter who plays Derrick’s shady business partner has a good setup for his character however his screen time is cut way too early leaving his performance as mostly wasted potential. There is an underlying theme of a white cop trying to set up an innocent black man inserted to appeal to black audiences but with the number of twists the film has, the plot point feels more shoehorned than relevant to any of the overall storytelling.
Fatale is the perfect watch at home on VOD, just don’t watch this with your spouse, unless you want to answer questions about your relationship.