Fatale Review: New Sparks Can’t Save A Tired Formula

Fatale feels painfully average, with its interesting elements only half-heartedly executed, leaving you with a film that has a sultry and enticing style but no memorable substance.

***WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!***

Every year, Hollywood seems to churn out at least one stalker-based film. You know the ones I mean; the films where the main characters meet someone that initially seems charming but turns out to be obsessive, psychotic, and determined to ruin the protagonists’ lives any way they can. The films where you see the trailers once or twice on TV and get mildly intrigued by them before completely forgetting them five minutes later. And despite the different casts and titles spanning this niche genre, they all manage to feel the same.

Fatale follows this long-standing tradition, having released in cinemas on December 18th. However, despite its theatrical release, it is coming to VOD today, January 8th, thus expanding its potential for an audience. The question is, is it worth your time? Having had the opportunity to see it for myself, I come out of the experience sayingmeh.

The film is not completely without merit, as there are several aspects of its construction that are worth noticing. Overall though, the film feels painfully average, with its interesting elements only half-heartedly executed, leaving you with a film that has a sultry and enticing style but no memorable substance.


Starring Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, The Perfect Guy) as sports agent Derrick Tyler, the film follows Tyler and highlights his seemingly perfect life; he has a loving wife, a beautiful home, and a blossoming company. However, as things grow uncertain in his marriage, Derrick travels down to Las Vegas, where he meets and has a one-night stand with Valerie Quinlan, played by Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby).

After returning home though, the two meet again after a break-in at Derrick’s home, with the revelation that Valerie is actually a police detective. As the two are forced together to solve the mystery, Derrick slips further into a web of deceit and bloodshed laid out by Valerie, forcing him to his wit’s end as he tries to keep his entire life from undoing due to his single mistake.


A common thread between movies within the sub-genre of stalker thrillers is that they advertise themselves as being seductive and pleasuring to look at. While I cannot speak for other movies, Fatale manages to have a handful of moments that live up to its marketing. Several locations in the film are very aesthetically pleasing to look at, and the cinematography in these moments makes it feel like you are experiencing the luxurious moments that the characters are. The film never looks ugly; even in its monotonous moments, things at least look serviceable, which is something to be commended.


Additionally, Fatale has a strong lead performance in Michael Ealy. The man has proven himself capable of playing a stalker in films like The Perfect Guy, but with Fatale, he does a good job at being a sympathetic stalker. Even though what he does to kickstart the plot is worth plenty of criticism, you can tell he regrets the decision and is doing all he can to rectify it in his eyes. He becomes sympathetic in a way, especially when Swank begins stalking him. You start actively rooting for him through all of his trials, and that mostly stems from Ealy’s portrayal of Derrick.

When it comes to Hilary Swank, her performance… is hit-and-miss. As the movie’s stalker, she has to play two different types of characters: one is a warm and charming facade that incites Ealy to sleep with her, and the other is the ruthless and intimidating stalker side, where she reveals how far she is willing to go and what she is willing to do in order to get what she wants. Personally, in regards to the former, she does a stellar job at being a stalker, her performance being intimidating and strangely enticing all the same. When Valerie gets to show her true colors, Swank excels at showing what she can do.


However, this intimidating side seems to be the only kind she truly pulls off. I never felt a warmth from her when Valerie was pretending to be friendly, partially to Swank’s lack of expression in these moments and partially due to what I knew was coming. I couldn’t understand what drew Valerie and Derrick together other than the writing forcing them together, and that made the first third of the movie a bit hard to watch. Although that last point may also stem from the painfully, painfully average script.

If you’ve ever heard of this stalker genre of films (not seen any of it, just heard of it), you most likely have the basic knowledge of how these kinds of movies go. Fatale tries to differentiate itself from other stalker films by having Swank play a police detective trying to crack a case with Ealy and his wife, which, on paper, could make for an interesting and unique film.

However, the film barely dabbles into this new angle of bringing law enforcement into the mix, and the story hook that sets things into motion is quickly forgotten by the halfway point. If you took out the angle of Valerie being a detective, most of the film would not need to be changed, which would lead to it being just like every other movie about a stalker.

That is Fatale‘s biggest issue: despite initially presenting intriguing ways to spice up the formula, it never fully utilizes these methods in its own story. They are only surface-level dressings that try (and fail) to hide the movie’s narrative shortcomings, which only highlight how samey and cliché the film really is. If you’ve seen any movie recently, you will be able to predict nearly everything that happens in this film. It tries to impress with the new plot elements it seems to bring in, but it never really does anything with them, leaving you with a cookie-cutter narrative that can be easily foretold by anyone with a sense of movie storytelling.


Fatale is a movie that, in trying to set itself apart from its peers, only becomes more alike to them as its runtime progresses. A strong lead performance in Michael Ealy, beautiful set design, and serviceable cinematography cannot save this movie from Hilary Swank’s questionable performance and its formulaic plot. It doesn’t do anything with the new story hooks it presents and barely manages to keep you on your toes, the initial thrills of the first half quickly giving way to apathy by the second.

I can’t say this is a terrible movie since there are plenty of elements that make it salvageable if you have nothing else to watch. If you are looking for films with engaging plots, however, you might want to look elsewhere. Fatale may try to lure you in and catch you off guard, much like Swank’s character, but with how easily spotted the twists of this film can be, one might prefer to steer clear of this deceptive picture.


For more news on upcoming films, make sure to keep it locked right here at The Nerdy Basement. Consider supporting us on Patreon as well! It’s a surefire way to help us provide you with more Nerdy News!