By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Both writer David Loughery and director Deon Taylor seem to enjoy making thriller flicks about psychotic obsessives, as this film isn’t their first rodeo. Last year, the filmmaking duo made the fun melodramatic thriller The Intruder. Now granted, both The Intruder and their latest collaboration, Fatale, are not heady explorations of the human psyche, but both movies do deliver when it comes to tension, thrills, and soap opera-like antics. Fatale does greatly benefit from the performances of its leads Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy, whose earnest, straight-faced acting lends the necessary gravity to keep the film’s silliness grounded.

Ealy stars as successful entrepreneur Derrick Tyler. Both Derrick and his business partner Rafe Grimes (Mike Colter) have achieved financial success and notoriety with their sports agency. Derrick should be tremendously happy with his life, but his marital woes with wife Tracie (Damaris Lewis) are what trouble him on a regular basis. Derrick gets a chance to get away for it all when he travels to Vegas with his buddy and partner Rafe for a bachelor party. At Rafe’s behest, Derrick decides to take a “break” from his marriage and pretend that he is a bachelor once again.

This little bit of role playing has him crossing paths with divorcee Valerie Quinlan, a lady who initially seems immune to Derrick’s charms, but eventually falls into bed with him. After they part ways, Derrick hopes that “what happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas.” However, things don’t exacty work out as he had hoped. When a harrowing home invasion takes place in Derrick’s domecile, he and wife call the police. The detective charged with the investigation turns out to be none other than Valerie Quinlan, a woman with some serious personal troubles of her own.

Even though some of the ground that this film covers is familiar, to the credit of the filmmakers, the movie does have some surprises and originality of its own. At the same time, both Loughery and Taylor can’t seem to avoid making the whole affair (no pun intended) silly and hokey. That is one of the main issues I had with The Intruder, and it is the same situation with Fatale. That said, Deon Taylor and his casting directors often choose their talents well, and it is the dedication and commitment of their actors which helps make the films so watchable and enjoyable.

Taylor certainly likes working with actor Michael Ealy, as he stars in both The Intruder and Fatale. Ealy does have great charisma and has an undeniable screen presence. He is also particularly great at being Taylor and Loughery’s whipping boy. He somehow fits perfectly into the role of victim in both films, but gets to show a little bit more range in his turn as Derrick Tyler. As Detective Valerie Quinlan, Hilary Swank gets to show her villainous side, but doesn’t portray her as a weakly developed two-dimensional character. The character desperately has her personal problems and these troubles greatly come into play as they strongly motivate Quinlan’s evil deeds.

The film has a decent supporting cast, but no one in particular really gives any breakout turns. The film pretty much is a showdown between Derrick Tyler and Valerie Quinlan. All of the other characters/actors fulfill their roles adequately. In addition to Mike Colter and Damaris Lewis, both of whom I mentioned above, the movie features Geoffrey Owens, Danny Pino, and Tyrin Turner.

And much like The Intruder, I am moderately recommending Fatale. David Loughery and Deon Taylor have made another enjoyable thriller with some great performances by the cast. I wouldn’t expect an intelligent thrill ride going in, but Fatale is a fun, occasionally silly ride. It’s definitely better than the thrillers one can find on the Lifetime Channel. That is for sure! Fatale is now playing in theaters.

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