Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

dir Deon Taylor
scr David Loughery
prd Hilary Swank, Deon Taylor, Roxanne Avent
with Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Damaris Lewis, Danny Pino, Tyrin Turner, Sam Daly, David Hoflin, Denise Dowse, Geoffrey Owens, Compton Menace, Lexa Gluck
release US 18.Dec.20
20/US 1h43

swank ealy colter

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swank and ealy
Set among Los Angeles' filthy rich, this film is relentlessly slick and gorgeous, populated with people who are only acting cool. The plot isn't terribly complex or twisty, and the characters are shifty but never really surprising as we learn what they're up to. But the film is adeptly assembled, it looks great and doesn't demand much from the audience as it plays with noir elements and scorned woman thrillers.
After a clash with his strong, smart wife Traci (Lewis) in their staggering hilltop mansion, sports agent Derrick (Ealy) heads to Vegas with his pal Rafe (Colter) for a raucous bachelor party. At the bar, he meets the seductive Val (Swank) and has a one-night fling. Back home, he's determined to get his marriage back on track. Then after a violent break-in at home, Val turns out to be the detective on the case. And she enjoys watching Derrick sweat. She also shows him that his life is more precarious than he can imagine.
Everything about this film feels fake, from the ostentatious wealth to the glossy pre-watershed sex. But it's full of trashy charms, including how Derrick squirms when Val struts into his kitchen. Then it turns out that her violent past has barred her from seeing her daughter, who lives with her ex (Pino), who is being tried for embezzlement. Val's attempts to manipulate this situation as well as Derrick's give the movie some momentum, even though it's clear exactly which bombshells are red herrings.

The cast is excellent, even if director Taylor undermines any attempt to stir in some subtlety. In her ludicrously enormous loft, Swank throws her entire actor's toolbox into her performance as the predatory Val. Her dry delivery flickers with tenacious craziness as she offers Derrick a course of action. Ealy's reply, "Don't tempt me," is amusing, and his nervous energy keeps the audience sympathetic as he embarks on a journey he doesn't want to take.

While the story feels flatly obvious, director Taylor and writer Loughery play everything as if its outrageously shocking. So even though we know what needs to happen, we hope for a rug-pulling surprise as we wait for Swank to shift into full bunny boiler mode. But the narrative just keeps going, finding all manner of silliness on its way to a bonkers finale. Instead of twists, the plot gets stuck in knots. And all we want to do is yell at the characters, "Haven't you idiots ever seen one of these movies before?"

cert 15 themes, language, violent, sexuality 21.Dec.20

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