Unless you’re going into FATALE completely blind, it’s pretty obvious what is about to go wrong, and how it’s going to play out step-by-step. Directed by Deon Taylor, FATALE wastes no time in introducing Derrick (Michael Ealy) as a successful man in Vegas, dissatisfied by what he has.
As soon as Valerie (Hilary Swank) comes into the picture and Derrick gives her a fake name, we’re shaking our heads. When Valerie steals Derrick’s phone to keep him from leaving her mid-hookup, we’re yelling for him to go. When Valerie shows up as the lead detective after Derrick (and his wife) are shaken after a break-in, it’s clear that nothing is as it seems, and no one is who they appear to be.
The worst thrillers make you think of ones you’d rather be watching, and FATALE absolutely falls into this category with its similarities to Strangers on a Train. Fueled by the desire to regain custody of her daughter, Valerie frames Derrick in a Hitchcock-esque situation that leaves him looking mighty guilty – but not if he can take out her ex-husband. Valerie’s backstory makes her semi-sympathetic, but this would’ve been so much stronger if she was a complete villain or a character we could root for. The wishy-washiness of the film keeps things forgettable, which should not be the case given how every minute is packed with drama.
FATALE‘s greatest strength is in its similarities to Get Out – both share optimistic endings for their Black leads in a world where Black lives are not valued like white lives are. Derrick and Chris are both set free at the end of their stories, but the difference between FATALE and Get Out is that FATALE has no substance outside of the ending. Taylor’s film hits all the right emotional boxes without actually saying anything about racism – and I can’t tell if that’s worse or better than if they actually tried. The relief at Derrick’s survival is completely unmatched with the rest of FATALE, making the previous hundred-some minutes seem even worse by comparison.
If you’re interested in physicality, FATALE has plenty of sex and violence to help pass a couple hours, though that’s still not enough time to get invested in the characters. FATALE is a mix of the iconic thrillers that came before it and offers nothing but a sloppy homage to show for it.
FATALE is now in theaters. Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.