Fatal Affair

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Fatal Affair
dir Peter Sullivan
scr Peter Sullivan, Rasheeda Garner
prd Jeffrey Schenck, Barry Barnholtz, Nia Long, Peter Sullivan, Brian Nolan
with Nia Long, Omar Epps, Stephen Bishop, Maya Stojan, Aubrey Cleland, Carolyn Hennesy, Lyn Alicia Henderson, Fredella Calloway, Jacob Gaines, Kym Jackson, Kj Smith, Jason-Shane Scott
release US/UK 16.Jul.20
20/US Netflix 1h29

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Slickly produced, this dramatic thriller constructs its plot by numbers, like a half-hearted gender-flipped remake of Fatal Attraction. Both the plot and the cliched dialog basically write themselves, but it's nicely played by an adept cast who manage to add some oomph to the thinly written roles. Nothing about the story plays out in a way that's even remotely believable, but the fluid filmmaking keeps us watching.
Big city lawyer Ellie (Long) has just moved into a palatial beachfront house outside San Francisco with her architect husband Marcus (Bishop), missing their daughter Brittany (Cleland), who has just started university. Assigned a new case, Ellie finds herself working with old friend David (Epps), and a night out getting reacquainted leads to a steamy kiss. This spurs her to rekindle her spark with Marcus. But the obsessive David won't go away, hooking up with Ellie's best friend Courtney (Stojan) and befriending Marcus. And Ellie begins to lose the plot.
A violent prolog sets the tone for an 80s-style erotic thriller, but what follows is more of a cheesy TV movie in which a drunken snog is the height of infidelity. It's quickly obvious that David is a delusional stalker masquerading as a nice guy, and it's not long before he's breaking and entering, glowering from the shadows and convincing Courtney that Ellie is the villain. But as the story progresses, it just seems to get trashier and trashier. Without the trash.

Long is superb as a woman who allows herself to briefly feel the passion that's missing from her marriage, then is wracked with guilt about it. So when she turns into a stalker herself, trying to protect her life, the film becomes very silly. Epps is always watchable, but can do little with a role that has precisely two notes: over-friendly and darkly dangerous. At least he gets two notes; Bishop, Stojan and Cleland barely get one each.

As the camera casually notices a missing kitchen knife, we begin to wonder who will be the first to get it in the neck. But the script is so flimsy that we don't care, because it's impossible to invest in characters this paper-thin, not to mention the laughable red herrings and plot revelations. As the story continues, all we can do is hope that it cuts loose into full-on nuttiness in the final reel. Sure enough, the bonkers murder and mayhem almost makes it worth hanging in there.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 16.Jul.20

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