Femme Fatale

Were it not for fallen auteur Brian DePalma's trademark use of split-screen and sinuous tracking shots, this stupefying, big-budget compendium of erotic thriller cliches might be mistaken for the kind of super-sleazy direct-to-video picture that normally stars Shannon Whirry under the overheated direction of Gregory Hippolyte. Cannes, 2001: Sleek jewel thief...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Were it not for fallen auteur Brian DePalma's trademark use of split-screen and sinuous tracking shots, this stupefying, big-budget compendium of erotic thriller cliches might be mistaken for the kind of super-sleazy direct-to-video picture that normally stars Shannon Whirry under the overheated direction of Gregory Hippolyte. Cannes, 2001: Sleek jewel thief Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) and two confederates, Black Tie (Eriq Ebouaney) and Racine (Edourd Montoute), plan to steal a gold, serpent-shaped bra-top studded with diamonds and worth $10 million, which celebri-slut Veronica (Danish-born Victoria's Secret model Rie Rasmussen) is (barely) wearing at a swanky film-festival premiere. Posing as a paparazzo, Laure lures the bi-curious Veronica into the ladies room for a lesbionic liaison, while Black Tie prepares to exchange a fake-snake top for the real one and Racine uses a high-tech array of probes and lasers to plunge the theater into darkness. Laure double-crosses her accomplices and decamps for Paris, leaving behind two very angry partners in crime. Back home, Laure stumbles into a funeral where she's mistaken for the grieving Lily, who's just lost her husband and son. Realizing that she and Lily look exactly alike, Laure steals her doppleganger's passport and plane ticket to America. After the disconsolate Lily commits suicide, Laure realizes she can assume the dead woman's identity with impunity. Seven years later, she's married to former software billionaire Bruce Hewitt Watts (Peter Coyote, in a role that amounts to little more than a cameo), the new U.S. ambassador to France, and must return to Paris. Soulful, part-time paparazzo Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas) snaps her picture, triggering a chain-reaction of such salacious preposterousness that it could be funny, were it not so clear that it's meant to be taken seriously. Shot in France with a weirdly assorted international cast, De Palma's return to the kind of voyeuristic suspense thriller that gave him some of his biggest successes (DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT) has a certain road-wreck appeal. But this freakish hybrid of VERTIGO (1958) and TENEBRAE (1982), spiced with the sensibilities of a lurid EMMANUELLE knock-off, can't stand on its own merits because it doesn't have any — unless you count Romijn-Stamos's lingerie-clad derriere. And opening with a long clip from DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) is a brazen miscalculation; however of-a-time its tough patter and shimmering B&W photography may be, DOUBLE INDEMNITY's darkly poetic carnality is timeless. Trashy, throwaway fluff like De Palma's film can only look bad by comparison.

Cord-Cutting Guide. Credit: Robert Rodriguez / TV Guide
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