AW Kautzer's Film Review Film

Film Review: Fatale (2020)


Need a distraction?  Deon Taylor’s ripe, twisty, neo-noir thriller is just what the Doctor Ordered.  This throwback to the sexual thrillers of the 90s has got 20’s vibes and attitude.

Deon Taylor’s filmography is the right kind of Genre material.  Exploitative enough to be highly entertaining and just enough adroit Social Commentary to give you something to chew on.  Fatale benefits from these and knowing performances by stars Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank.

Sports Agent Derrik Tyler (Ealy) is at the top of his profession that affords him all one could want, a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, beautiful life.  Though, not everything is what it appears.  Derrik has problems at home with Tracie (Damaris Lewis) distanced.  His partner at his Agency (Mike Colter) is pressuring him to sell the Agency when he doesn’t want to.  

What’s a guy to do?  Go to a bachelor party in Vegas that’s what.  Bad decisions are made in a drunken night with a mysterious beautiful stranger (Swank).  Thinking he can go back to LA and reboot with Tracie.  No sooner than they literally kiss and make up an attempted home invasion occurs leaving Derrik bruised and battered and a police detective Valerie Quinlan on the case.  That police detective … the same mysterious beautiful stranger from Vegas!!!

The above plot is only about the first ten minutes of a narrative that delights in subverting genre conventions as much as it leans into them.  The script by Davide Loughery plays to Taylor’s strengths as a filmmaker with finding the right balance of social and genre to make a winning combination.  One that is familiar with the troupes of the sexual thriller will delight in some of the turns the film makes even deep into the narrative.  

Though there is great supporting work done by Lewis, Colter, and Tyrin Turner but it’s Ealy and Swank that are center stage.  Ealy’s performance as Derrik is not as a slick crass operator, as many agents are portrayed, but a man who’s worked hard at every turn to make something.  Swank as Valerie is not just a crazy person with a badge, there’s a sadness, loneliness, and anger that fills the performance.  The way these two circle around one another is fascinating and isn’t just a series of Sex Scenes.  The way the power dynamic works with Valerie taking control at every moment even when it appears that Derrik is in control.  

Fatale will entertain and surprise those not familiar with director Taylor’s work.  For those of us that have been watching for a while now, it will only reaffirm what we know.  That Deon Taylor’s continues to grow his ability to mix the social commentary and genre material with style and aplomb.  

Fatale available at home on demand January 8