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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 14.58%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad56.25%
Total Crap: 12.5%

4 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Femme Fatale
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by Scott Weinberg

"De Palma makes it clear that he loves Romijn's ass above all else."
2 stars

Much like John Carpenter (a filmmaker who delivered quality twenty years ago, and very little since), Brian De Palma is a tough filmmaker to defend. Often bashed for hanging his hat a bit too close to Alfred Hitchcock’s, De Palma has enjoyed an eclectic and intermittently successful career…yet throngs of educated movie fans loathe the guy. Sure, it may be easy to knock the guy behind the spectacularly awful Bonfire of the Vanities or the ridiculously forgettable Mission to Mars, but heck – this is the director who gave us The Untouchables and Scarface and Carrie! And Blow Out! And Carlito’s Way!

So obviously I’m a fan of De Palma’s work, but there’s been a palpable stench of turkey surrounding his latest entry for quite some time now. Never one to let pre-release buzz taint a movie for me, I found myself rather looking forward to Femme Fatale. My enthusiasm remained intact for the film’s mega-slick opening heist sequences, and then promptly deflated into a resigned sigh. Once you get past those initial few moments, Femme Fatale seems a non-stop battle between non-sensical plot contrivance and stunningly awful dialogue. Once you get accustomed to the arcane plot divergences, De Palma offers a finale that seems culled from some unfinished David Lynch flick.

Yep folks, it pains me to say it, but Femme Fatale skirts dangerously close to the “so bad it’s good” realm of cinematic experience, and if it weren’t for a goofy turn by Antonio Banderas and the hypnotic appearance of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’ legs every 45 seconds – this would be the movie equivalent of a 2 Sominex tablets and some warm milk.

The scattershot plot revolves around Laure Ash, a France-based diamond thief and con-artist who has just double-crossed her latest co-conspirators. During a wonderfully jazzy extended sequence that opens the film, Laure and her two partners aim to steal a dazzling $10 million gold breastplate blouse thingie. (Picture a waifish model wearing a golden snake over her gaunt breasts and you get the idea.) Following the robbery (and subsequent double-cross), Laure is mistaken for another woman (one who has just lost her husband and child in an accident), photographed by a meandering paparazzo, and hightails it to the U.S.

Seven years later…

Get used to reading those three words, as De Palma employs the trick more than once. Laure is now the wife of a millionaire ambassador, and must return to France…where her former partners are still hunting for her. (Ridiculously ‘fortunate’ timing is only one of the insipid coincidences employed by De Palma’s screenplay.) Nicolas Bardo (the photographer from seven years hence) stumbles over the licentious gal almost immediately upon her arrival.

Thus begins a seemingly unending series of set-ups, double-crosses, and double-double crosses that will keep one of your eyes rolling in disbelief as the other one studies the second hand on your watch. What begins as a serviceable (though certainly not unique) crime thriller quickly devolves into a flea market full of witless twists, telegraphed turns, and more hilarious dialogue than any one film should ever have. (De Palma seemingly pens his own movies once every ten years or so, and the result is usually quite bad.) A fellow critic sitting a few seats down leaned over to me and muttered “This has got to be a parody, right?” while dozens of ‘normal moviegoers’ were content to giggle at the straight-faced and wackily earnest exchanges offered onscreen.

As a lead actress, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos sure is...pretty. Those expecting any sort of “breakout” performance may be better served focusing on Stamos’ bra rather than her emoting skills. In other words, she’s screechingly bad. Antonio Banderas fares only a little better, seemingly well aware that he’s been way miscast this time around. Peter Coyote drops in for 2 or 3 scenes, though his talents are unable to tip the scales. (You’d need fifty quality character actors to combat the zombie-esque deliveries of this leading lady.) Why De Palma wanted this actress for the role may seem obvious when you look at her body, but surely the veteran director knew how bad her performance was.

Chock-full of De Palma’s trademark gimmicks (split-screen action, long and elaborate tracking shots, a devoted insistence to flowery camera flourishes that exist solely as ‘stand-alone’ camera flourishes) and overloaded with way more plot than it really needs, Femme Fatale may not rank among the worst movies of the year (any movie featuring a steamy lesbian make-out scene can’t be all THAT bad), but odds are you'll enjoy it more as a weeknight rental than as a night on the town.

Movies like this are making it tougher and tougher to refute all those naysayers who insist than De Palma is an irredeemable hack. I still refuse to admit it, but a few more projects like this will certainly convert me to the other side.

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originally posted: 11/07/02 09:48:51
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
7/03/06 Dani Brilliant filmmaking. 5 stars
4/11/05 R.W. Welch Overly artsy technique bogs down story line. Just passable. 3 stars
11/21/04 Victor She's stunning, the scene where she gets ass fucked is perfect. 5 stars
8/09/04 Lucas awesome 5 stars
7/20/04 boo not that bad, but not as good as it could have been 4 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt A HORRIBLE bore! I'm serious when I say I thought it had been on for 4 hours. Worst of 02'! 1 stars
1/13/04 John a nice opening squence followed by a contrived and far fetched plot 2 stars
11/08/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) It wasn't at all what I expected, but it was great nonetheless. Lots of brilliant stuff. 4 stars
5/25/03 Jack Sommersby Too-stylish film make syou regret having given it the benefit of the doubt for too long. 2 stars
5/23/03 mr. Pink Some great sequences can't elavate this dissapointment to a good film. 3 stars
5/12/03 Jesse Widmark Really Bad screenplay/ annoying directing 1 stars
4/20/03 jay not as promising as it appears 4 stars
4/16/03 Orson Welles FF is a highly reflected neo noir, full of intertextuality and deeply embedded in the femme 4 stars
4/15/03 Tom Sucked, The dream crap just pisses me off 1 stars
4/10/03 Ingo There's far more than you see at first glance - highly recommended. 5 stars
2/16/03 qdorfman It's not a thriller for God's sake. Worth more than one viewing.. 5 stars
12/12/02 Natalie Stonecipher A piss-off within a bull-shit wrapped up inside a fuck-up! 1 stars
12/07/02 RB None 2 stars
11/25/02 1sexyb It was entertaining & fun to watch, and yes, rebecca is hot! 4 stars
11/19/02 jeff not a waste of time. Rebecca is amzingly good looking. 4 stars
11/14/02 Kelleigh oh-my-fucking-god...rebecca is amazingly arousing. Awesome movie. God Damn! 5 stars
11/09/02 Christiane Ley The T&A alone didn't justify the $6 I paid to sit through 2 hours of agony. 1 stars
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  06-Nov-2002 (R)



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