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Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Laure
Bardo (Antonio Banderas) meets Lily/Laure
cast: Antonio Banderas, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Peter Coyote, Gregg Henry, and Eriq Ebouaney
writer and director: Brian De Palma
114 minutes (R) 2002
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warner NTSC DVD Region 1 retail
reviewed by Ian Shutter
Ever the Hitchcockian stylist, De Palma's skilfully constructed European thriller of
deception, revenge and mistaken identity evokes the Master's unique brand of mystery
narrative and innovative movie exposition. With chillingly suspenseful moments of alluring
sexuality and simmering violence, obsessive attention to intriguing details, and expert
handling of visual design and editorial techniques, here's another endlessly fascinating
piece of cinematic wizardry that's boiling over with impressive trickery, audacious
revelations, and a vivid sense of sheer exhilaration worthy of Dario Argento's best work.
Femme Fatale stars Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as bad girl Laure, and
kicks off with a sophisticated heist sequence at the Cannes film festival, where the plan
by a gang of diamond thieves to steal body jewellery from a supermodel known only as Veronica
(Rie Rasmussen), goes horribly wrong and the shooting starts. Black Tie (Eriq Ebouaney) gets
wounded and goes to prison, while sexy blonde Laure assumes the identity of suicidal runaway
Lily and flees to the USA.
Seven years on, luckless photojournalist and wannabe collagist Nicolas Bardo
(Antonio Banderas) is hired for the paparazzi mission to get the first ever pictures of the
reclusive wife of Bruce Watts (Peter Coyote) - the American ambassador to France, a job at
which he succeeds despite interference from security agent, Shiff (Gregg Henry). Eventually,
however, Bardo regrets his actions and tries to make amends, only to become embroiled in a
fake kidnapping scheme to extort ransom from the moneyed Watts...
De Palma's cinematic technique, such as it is, remains faultless. From
startling camera angles to a variety of pastel and noir colour schemes, it's always arresting.
Where Femme Fatale goes off the rails is with the scarcely adequate performance of
Romijn-Stamos in dual roles. Far too much of this sensational and exploitative melodrama
relies on the leading lady's acting talents (which, it must be said, are as scanty as her
night scene's costumes), and no matter how often Laure/Lily tells Bardo (and, by implication,
the audience) that's she's thoroughly wicked, there's just no hope of convincing anyone
familiar with numerous other examples of the archetypal film noir female of the title that
Rebecca fits the bill. Alongside the bold Sharon Stone in
or ultra bitchy Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction, poor Romijn-Stamos is
unfortunately lacking in both spirit and polish. Although she looks absolutely stunning
and does make a great supporting player as blue-skinned Mystique in the
X-Men films, Romijn-Stamos
simply hasn't got the expressive depth or the ballsy attitude to carry a movie such as this.
Happily, the director's thematic and contextual references to his own
back catalogue - Mission: Impossible (1996), Body Double (1984), and especially
Blow Out (1981), itself inspired by Antonioni's Blow Up (1966) - are not
particularly intrusive or too self-indulgent, instead seeming less a straightforward
repetition of earlier works and more like a tolerable auteur signature. As with De Palma's
most successful productions, Femme Fatale is more concerned with provocation and
emotional resonance than with logic or plausible story development - hence the premonitory
'dream' sequence taking up so much of this film's running time.
The Region One DVD release (rumoured to have been on sale in UK shops,
for a while) has a choice of English or French sound in Dolby digital 5.1 plus subtitles
in English, French and Spanish. Disc extras: three behind-the-scenes featurettes, Dressed
To Kill montage, and two trailers.