Brief synopsis: a successful married sports agent’s life is thrown into turmoil after he has a one-night stand in Las Vegas. Returning home after his trip to Vegas, he gets assaulted in his home one night. The detective looking into his case turns out to be the same person he had a one-night stand with.
Is it any good?: Fatale is too many stories rolled into one. It has elements of Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Strangers on a Train, plus a bit of The Fugitive thrown in to add to the confusion. I have watched telenovelas with fewer stories going on than in this film. Fatale is a confusing mess of a film with no story thread making sense.
That Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and Golden Globe nominee Michael Ealy are in this, tells you more about the paucity of good roles in the present production landscape than anything else.
Spoiler territory: sports agent Derrick (Michael Ealy) is hosting a small gathering with his wife, Tracie, (Damaris Lewis), a realtor, his business partner, Rafe (Mike Colter) and Rafe’s partner, Micaela (Kali Hawk). Everyone seems very relaxed except for Tracie, who is a little cold towards her husband. And snappy, definitely snappy.
The next day, Derrick is going away to Las Vegas but he tells Tracie that he can cancel the trip as he wants to work on their relationship. She tells him not to. She does not mind if he goes. The ice is not thawing on her anytime soon. Derrick heads off.
In Vegas, Derrick is worrying about his relationship and tells Rafe. Rafe, the best shady friend ever, tells him he needs to relax and enjoy Vegas. Rafe takes Derrick’s wedding ring off of him and tells him to go and enjoy himself.
Derrick wanders over to the bar. Whilst at the bar he ogles a woman dancing. She comes to the bar and is immediately hit on by a guy (Johann Sebastian). She gives him short shrift, quickly rejecting his advances.
She is more comfortable with Derrick and smiles at him, asking him why he is there. He tells her he is at a bachelor party. It is not his. He is not accustomed to chatting with women. He’s married. The woman continues to flirt with him.
He asks her if she is with a group. No, she rolls alone. Derrick mentions the fact that he is married but the music is too loud and she does not hear him. He loses his nerve. Telling the truth can be particularly difficult for men when talking to beautiful women.
She tells him her name is Val (Hilary Swank). Derrick lies – he’s all in now – telling her his name is Darren. He is not overly creative. She repeats his name back to him, whilst simultaneously giving him the crazy eyes.
The two of them dance for a bit before retiring to her hotel room for some bedroom gymnastics. Derrick wakes up the next day and eases out of the bed. As he is getting dressed, Val wakes up. He is searching for his mobile phone. Val tells him it is in the hotel safe but she cannot remember the combination.
Her memory could be jogged with an encore performance from him. After obliging, he gets his phone back. He returns home and guiltily watches his wife sleeping. Back at the office, Derrick is visited by his cousin, Tyrin (Tyrin Turner). Tyrin has come to pick up some money because Derrick is wealthy and looks after him with cash handouts.
Rafe comes into the office. He does not like Tyrin and does not think Derrick should let him come to the office. He does not try to hide his disdain, mocking Tyrin’s height to his face. A little bit rude. Tyrin leaves the partners to a meeting.
Rafe wants to sell the company to a bigger agency. They can make millions. Derrick does not want to sell, he has no desire to work for somebody else. Rafe, who wants to be rich and work less, keeps pushing the idea of selling.
Back at home, Derrick cooks a meal for his frosty wife. He wants to rekindle their relationship. Tracie thaws a little at his efforts. He is rewarded with more bedroom antics. Whilst she is on top of him, she hears a noise in the house. Derrick goes to investigate.
Derrick has armed himself with a golf club and looks around the house. He is attacked by an intruder from behind. The intruder has a gun but seems to want to beat him up rather than just shoot him. The two tussle around the kitchen, Derrick getting punched, kicked and smashed into furniture. Belatedly, the intruder tries to shoot him, having knocked him to the floor.
Derrick hits him with the golf club and the intruder runs off. Tracie, who had been watching her husband taking a kicking, screams his name. Loudly. Derrick, for his part, advises her to do what she should have done in the first place and call the police.
The police come and ask about the attack and the cameras around the property. Derrick tells them that the system does not work. What about the alarm? Tracie says she thought they put it on before going to bed. The officer says that a detective will take over their case. Derrick recognises the detective, Valerie Quilan. Val!
Derrick, who is understandably nervous, stutters as Val plays with him, asks him if she has met him before. Tracie helpfully interjects that he is a well-known sports agent. Val acknowledges that that is where she might have seen his face. She keeps up the mental pressure on Derrick, taking Tracie aside to look at the bedroom.
In the bedroom, Val asks Tracie the frankly ludicrous question, which side of the bed does she sleep on. Tracie thinks the question is odd but answers it anyway. Val sits on the bed and caresses the sheets. She asks if anyone wants to harm her husband as nothing in the house had been stolen. Tracie does not think so. They return to the lounge. Derrick is still nervous, something Val takes joy in pointing out. Val leaves a card with her contact information.
In the morning, Carter Heywood (Danny Pino) is wheeling his chair-bound daughter, Haley (Oakley Bull), to the car. His wife (Lexa Gluck) is already at the car. As Carter is putting Haley into the car, his wife indicates Val, doing her best Horatio Caine NCIS: Miami impression, is leaning on a car down the road. Carter approaches her.
He tells her she cannot be there – cannot and should not are two different things. Semantics. She wants access to her daughter. Carter is not particularly empathic, telling her she lost any right to access due to her drunken antics. Val tells him she has not had a drink since the accident. Oh, you mean the accident that paralysed your daughter? All’s forgiven then.
Carter is not in a forgiving mood and has no intention of being so in the future. He tells Val she will never be a mother to Haley again. Val remembers being passed out on the bed and rising up in a stupor to see her daughter playing with her service revolver moments before it went off.
Derrick goes to the station to see Val. He wants to know if she is going to expose him and to apologise for misleading her and lying. She tells him he is a very convincing liar, having told her his name was Darren Johnson in Las Vegas. The fact that she made a hard play for him and they exchanged no information after their hook up has no impact on her indignation. He fooled her!
Derrick returns to work and googles Val. he reads about her messy divorce from Carter. Returning home, Val is there speaking to Tracie. She tells them she just wanted to see the house in the day. Val leaves. Shortly afterwards, Tracie leaves to go and show a house. Derrick returns to the office.
Rafe thinks that Tyrin might have been the person who arranged the break-in. Derrick tells him about Val. Val gets more information about the break-in. There was no forced entry, whoever broke into the house knew how to get in. Rafe tells Derrick he is heading to the gym and asks him if he wants to come. Derrick declines continuing to look into Val.
He leaves the office a little later, Val drives up and tells him to get in the car. She has new information about the case. Couldn’t phone him then? okay…Derrick gets into the car and they head to the beach. Why he would follow her to the beach I do not know.
As they walk along the beach, Val gives him a telescope and tells him to look into a specific house. He sees Rafe and Tracie together. What if he had decided to join Rafe in the gym? Threesome? Anyhoo, Derrick is crushed. Val tells him she had a notion that Tracie might be cheating on him. She leaves him on the beach. Hope he’s got the Uber app.
Val goes to see Carter again to beg him to let her see Haley. Carter, a well connected political figure, smugly tells her that she has no chance of gaining custody. He is too well connected. Basically, he pokes the bear.
Derrick is getting drunk at home and calls Val. She invites him over to her loft apartment. He is a brilliant driver, as he speeds over in his high powered sports car whilst the worse for drink. Val tells him that Rafe and Tracie are trying to kill him. He does not believe her. He is a lovesick fool. Val lays out the evidence for him.
She tells him that they will try again. He needs to kill them first. Drunk and a little stupid, Derrick says that he feels he could in that moment. Val, who really enjoyed their coitus in Vegas, takes advantage of his emotional state to get a little more Derrick. He finishes and staggers off.
Early the next morning, Derrick is woken by the police. He is taken to the police station. Val comes and sees him in the interview room. She asks him if he did it. She knows he did not but she is a crazy bitch. He has no idea what she is talking about. She shows him crime scene photographs. Rafe and Tracie are dead, murdered.
Val brings up his colourful past, how his cousin Tyrin took the fall for him so as he could take up a basketball scholarship. Val continues to push the narrative of an emotional and angry Derrick going back to the beach house and killing Rafe and Tracie. They found his wedding ring at the scene.
The press has a field day with Derrick being a suspect in the murder of his wife and business partner. Derrick goes to the office. Only the receptionist (Hajin Cho), is there. Obviously needs the job. He sends her home. The business, unsurprisingly, starts to lose clients.
Val comes to see Derrick at his wife’s wake. He realises that she killed them. She tells him he is about to be indicted. She leaves him to the wake. Derrick speaks with his mother (Denise Dowse). She tells him that she will always be there for him until the day she dies. It’s not like she could be there for him afterwards.
She carries on spouting not at all inspirational bollocks and telling him he will always have his name. Doesn’t really matter if your name is tarnished and dog shit does it. Derrick tells Tyrin about Val and how she is behind everything. Tyrin says he can deal with it. Derrick does not want him to get involved. Tyrin is not one for listening.
Val creeps into Carter’s house and spies on her daughter sleeping. She looks in on Carter and his wife. No security at his home then. Tyrin goes to see his guy, Bumpy (Compton Menace). They both go to see Val. At home, Derrick is having a nightmare, seeing himself being drowned by Val.
Val gets blindsided by Bumpy, getting smashed in the back of the head. He drags her in front of Tyrin. Tyrin wants to know why she is hassling Derrick. Val starts to hyperventilate and choke, crying and pleading. Tyrin tells Bumpy to take her to the bathroom. Dumb thugs that they are, Val gets hold of a shotgun she has hidden in the ceiling and kills them both.
Val calls Derrick and tells him to meet her at the beach house. At the beach house, she tells him she killed Tyrin in self-defence – which is kind of true. Derrick scuffles with her and grabs her gun. Val tells him that they can blame Tyrin for the murders. Derrick is pointing the gun at her. Val keeps talking, moving forward. He shoots her twice but…they are blanks! Haha!
Val pulls out her gun. It does not have blanks in it. The gun he used was the murder weapon – obviously – and now it has his prints on it. She wants him to kill Carter Heywood. If he does that, she will give him back the gun and pin the murders on his dead cousin.
Derrick returns home. His options are not good. He goes to intercept Carter, pulling the gun on him and trying to tell him that his ex-wife, Val, is trying to frame him. Carter, a complete dickhead and egomaniac, decides to fight the man with the gun. He gets killed for his hubris.
Derrick goes to Val’s loft. He tells her that he went to warn Carter but ended up killing him. No idea why he would tell her that, it’s not like she is the most compassionate person. He is also sure that she will want to kill him, to tie up any loose ends. Val, sweetheart that she is, tells him he is pathetic – nice – and that he better take the evidenced and leave.
She then tries to shoot him in the back. In the back! Derrick, anticipating her duplicity, pulls a gun and returns fire. She wounds him but he shoots her twice, putting her down. He checks her, taking the gun out of her hand. He goes to leave the apartment. He looks back and she is gone.
She attacks him with a kitchen knife, hacking at him like a maniac. He shoots her in the chest. Before she dies, Derrick reveals that he taped her confessing to all of the crimes. He is vindicated. The end.
Final thoughts: Fatale is a mishmash of films, with no real central story. It was supposed to be about Swank’s Val desperation to get her daughter back but her Training Day approach to police work completely overshadows that.
Ealy’s Derrick is gullible and easily manipulated by everybody, even if ultimately, doing so proves to be bad luck as all his manipulators end up dead. Val’s desire for a one night stand and then her offence at finding out that he is married was a little silly. Did she expect to see him again? Of course not.
Lewis’ Tracie had too little involvement in the story for her embittered wife angle to work, especially as she seemed to be the one who was miffed even before he had his one-night stand. Colter’s Mike was pitched just about perfectly and worked for what the film was trying to do but the rest of the story did not match the strength of that character.
Written by David Loughery and directed by Deon Taylor, the film does look good and is well edited. Loughery’s script is pretty flat, most of the actors sounding as though they are just saying lines. Which they are.
Swank is pretty entertaining as the crazy Val and Colter is good as the greedy and duplicitous Rafe. Even Ealy does okay with the material he has. The acting is good from all on show, to tell the truth, but the script is so poor that most of the characters are either underwritten or unconvincing.
With a runtime of one hundred and two minutes, Fatale is not a long film and potters through its runtime pretty comfortably. Worth a watch if you like either of the leads otherwise you could probably give it a miss.