“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2002 / Director: Brian De Palma / Actors: Rebecca Romijn, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote, Eriq Ebouaney, Edouard Montoute ... / DVD released 2003-03-25 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen „
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Following his previous effort Mission to Mars (2000), a less than spectacular space exploration thriller, Brian De Palma fans were left understandably disheartened and let down by a director who has undoubtedbly delivered greatness in the past. This is why when De Palma's next film Femme Fatale (2002) was announced fans were less then eager to part with their hard earned cash and sadly the movie was a box office bomb. However if history has taught us anything it is that just because a movie does not make a lot of money doesn't automatically make it a bad piece of filmmaking.
Femme Fatale translates in English to mean 'Deadly woman' and throughout the many years of cinema Femme Fatales have often been the dark, deceptive and attractive woman found in film noir pictures, often in the shadowed corner of some seedy bar. De Palma however took the character of a Femme Fatale and put her into a modern environment with some quite entertaining results. Although it sometimes feels as if De Palma is taking the tag of 'erotic thriller' a little too literally the main idea of the narrative is strong enough to stop the film from being tagged as a bit too smutty.
Cast in the lead role of Laure, the Femme Fatale, is Rebecca Romijn a no doubt astonishingly beautiful actress perhaps most memorable for her role as the naked, scalely blue mutant, mystique, in X-men (2000) above else all. Romijn nevertheless provides a capable, if a little over dramatic, performance of this modernised temptress and very much vamps up the role of a traditional femme fatale into a believable present day siren. There a few moments however when De Palma will just let Romijn act, without bloating her dialogue with overly expressive sexual innuendo.
The less that can be said about Antonio Banderas role in the film the better, as he struggles to keep up the hardened brute image when the script calls for a particularly perplexing scene in a hotel room when Banderas changes from what seemed to be a normal down to earth and compassionate character, temporarily into an effeminate and overly camp man, in order to blag his way inside. For me his performance never quite recovered after this and the character as a whole seem some what damaged as the unnecessarily humorous scene detracted away from the seriousness of the subject matter at hand.
Character flaws aside, the first two thirds of the film are gripping enough to provoke interest in how the story will end. However it is the movies conclusion that is very perplexing indeed. Our main character is killed off only to wake up once more in lilies house just as before, implying that the last hour or so of the film was just a dream taking place in Laure's mind. We are then provided with a fairy tale happy ending where the baddies chasing Laure are killed off, Lily starts a new life with Watts and Laure strolls of into the sunset with Bardo. De Palma's motivation in including an ending which potentially damages and discredits the rest of his movie is quite puzzling but maybe it was quite an artistic touch that flew over my head, who knows?
Femme Fatale is an interesting take on bringing a traditionally film noir based character into a modernised setting. It is not without its flaws but I think it would be hard to argue against how finely shot and beautifully stylized the piece is on the whole. Not De Palma's best but a well needed return to form after a few years of walking in the wilderness.