Film Reviews: Wednesday, November 07, 2002
Femme Fatale
Starring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, and Peter Coyote. Written and directed by Brian De Palma. Rated R.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Great Ash

Nothing going in De Palma’s latest but supermodel booty and bad acting.

By KEN SHIMAMOTO

Before seeing this film, I was talking to a friend about a particularly unfunny open-mic comedy night participant whose entire act basically consisted of saying the word “pussy” repeatedly. “I couldn’t believe it,” my pal said. “There was nothing funny at all about her, until we made a drinking game of it. Every time she said ‘pussy,’ we’d drink.” The final verdict: “I had to wonder whether she had any respect for women or herself.”

One might reasonably ask the same question about screenwriter/director Brian De Palma, the guy behind Femme Fatale. In the film, we get: 1) lesbian sex against a glass partition in a restroom to Bolero rip-off background music; 2) a gratuitous lingerie shot of supermodel star Rebecca Romijn-Stamos; 3) a gratuitous lap dance by Romijn-Stamos that culminates in a near-rape on a pool table, immediately followed by 4) a gratuitous pool table sex scene that includes the immortal line, “You don’t have to lick my ass, just fuck me” (which inexplicably got no yuks at the Dallas multiplex where I saw the film, while “a naked waitress in a coma” did — I guess Dallas people are just weird).

Oh, yeah, there’s a story, too. Laure Ash (Romijn-Stamos) is an American thief involved in a plot to steal a jewel-encrusted bra off the body of a movie star at the Cannes Film Festival. The heist goes wrong and Laure absconds with the jewels and escapes by conveniently stealing another woman’s identity. Seven years later, she returns to France as the wife of the newly appointed American ambassador, and she’s understandably worried about being discovered by her vengeful ex-accomplices. Enter wayward paparazzi photographer Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), who snaps a pic of the ambassador’s elusive wife and winds up the patsy in a blackmail/faked-kidnapping scheme that’s far too involved to go into here. But rest assured, De Palma fans — there’s a surprise ending involving a dream, just like you’ve come to expect from Carrie, Body Double, Dressed To Kill, etc.

De Palma’s been recycling himself quite a bit over the last coupla decades, and Femme Fatale is no exception. You’ll thrill to such familiar De Palma devices as split-screen (which doesn’t really serve any dramatic purpose after the initial jewel heist sequence) and slo-mo (the bad guys pursuing Laure’s camo-wearing girlfriend). De Palma can do visually interesting things even when he doesn’t have much of a story to tell (as in the head-spinning 18-minute tracking shot of a Vegas casino that opened the otherwise lackluster Snake Eyes). Here, I’m not sure whether he’s got too little story to tell, or too much; either way, it’s hard to care when the plot finally completes all its tortuous twists and turns and reaches its, uh, “happy” conclusion.

Part of the problem is the stars. As an actress, Romijn-Stamos is a terrific model. She gives some painfully wooden line readings (her motivational speech near the end is truly snooze-inducing) and appears incapable of registering any emotion beyond mild amusement. Banderas mostly just looks befuddled, as well an actor might be whose reputation in this country is based on Desperado and Spy Kids, although he got a lot of laughs from the Dallas crowd for his swishy gay bit, perhaps a sop to his fans from La Ley del Deseo and Philadelphia.

The final verdict: Femme Fatale is for uncritical fans of soft-core porn or Brian De Palma. Everyone else is advised to stay away.


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