Femme Fatale

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“Stylishly-shot but largely uncredible thriller, with a lame twist befitting bad soap-opera.”

Odds are you won’t see the key twist here coming, but on the other hand, it renders the preceding hour almost redundant. This sums up the entire film: as an exercise in technical style, few directors are as good at camerawork as De Palma, yet little here withstands scrutiny, despite an abundance of smoke, mirrors and Romijn-Stamos. She plays Laure, a jewel thief who cons her partners out of $10m in diamonds, then is lucky enough to fall into another identity. Seven years later, they get out of jail, still miffed, and she’s now married to the American ambassador. When paparazzi Bardo (Banderas) exposes her identity, she instigates a complex plan to play her various problems off against each other.

You have to admire De Palma’s guts: large chunks are without dialogue, and what’s spoken is mostly in subtitled French. It’s almost as if he wanted to piss off a typical American audience, not least in a finale so audacious, it almost invites you to come and have a go, if you think you’re hard enough. However, too often the style is pointless – a split-screen, except nothing of significance occurs on either side – and the twist remains a copout on every level.

While at best a borderline entry in the action heroine genre, femme fatales have a long, dishonourable history, going back to before women got to kick butt. Pointedly, the film opens with Laure watching Double Indemnity; both psychologically and mentally, she punts Bardo’s ass into 2008. This isn’t great art, and neither Banderas nor Romijn-Stamos were unjustly overlooked for Oscars, but any film where the heroine says, “You don’t have to lick my ass, just fuck me” has guilty pleasure potential.

Dir: Brian De Palma
Star: Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote, Gregg Henry

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