Femme Fatale is a twisty, slow, atmospheric thriller
in the same vein as Hitchcocks best, only this time there is oodles of sex. Writer/director
Brian De Palma lays out his influence early in the film as Laure (Rebecca Romijn), a naked, gorgeous blonde is seen as a reflection
in a TV screen showing Double Indemnity. De Palma wants to create a woman as
dangerous as she is beautiful. He almost succeeds.
The movie opens with an elaborate three-man heist at the
Cannes Film Festival, the ultimate goal of which is to walk away with a brassiere laced with around 12 million dollars worth
of diamonds. After the movie hall goes completely dark and Laure leaves carrying
the diamonds, the real action begins.
Its also the point at which the time sequence becomes almost
terribly confusing. Basically, Laure becomes confused with a woman that looks
exactly like her and takes her identity all the way to America.
At that point, Nicolas (Antonio Banderas) is brought into
the forefront as a photographer playing paparazzi to pay the bills and eat before getting back to finishing an elaborate city
streets collage that takes up an entire wall in his apartment. His assignment
for the big bucks: take a picture of the American Ambassador to Frances photo-shy new wife (all this takes place in France). The kicker, not-surprisingly, is that Laure under her new identity has come into the
What follows is a tangled web of mind games, double crosses,
plot-bending twists, and intimidating cinematography. If at the end, you can
untangle all of the strings and understand, you win the prize of watching an old-fashioned thriller.
While the framework is good, there are glaring faults that
I must shed light on. Banderas is a capable actor, but he slips into the role
of a cartoony fool with some of his ill-advised deliveries of lines. Its a tough
role to master, but Banderas doesnt do it any favors.
Rebecca Romijn (formally with a hyphen and Stamos) oozes
the sexuality that the role calls for, but shes not dangerous at all. The part
gets mean, but she never actually bends with it, selling the audience on her audacity.
Id wager thats because she doesnt have any.
Shes also forced to be part of weak interludes trying to
show Laures cunning and drive, but which only end up showing her backside. Maybe
the failings of these scenes lie with Banderas and his awful reactions to all the action.
Above all, the film is stylish. It runs on its own engine, or more accurately on the engine director De Palma has turned on before. I must admit, I have only seen his Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes, and The Untouchables, but I think any movie fan has heard the hub-bub surrounding his tricks of the
trade: unique slow motion, split screen, and shots that go on for twenty minutes or so.
He employs all of them in Femme Fatale and accomplishes the atmosphere he sets out to create, but loses some credibility
along the way. His strengths lie as a director, not as a writer.