Femme Fatale (2002)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Erotic Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 6, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Switzerland, Germany, France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Elbert Ventura

Heralded by many as a return to form for director Brian De Palma, Femme Fatale almost feels like a career summation for the master stylist. Although it barely registered at the box office, this tawdry piece of noir revisionism is actually nifty entertainment -- tricky, engrossing, and just short of profound. The gorgeous Rebecca Romijn-Stamos does double duty in the title role, playing both a jewel thief and her unlikely doppelganger. As that description indicates, the plot is not a little outlandish -- which is fine by De Palma. The maverick director uses the narrative as little more than a springboard to elaborate on his formal and thematic obsessions. The movie is a delirious hodgepodge of De Palma tropes: split screens, doubles, voyeurs, and graceful tracking shots abound. At once employing and exploding the clich├ęs of film noir, De Palma skirts dangerously close to self-parody. Based on a script the director penned himself, it's sometimes hard to tell whether the movie -- packed with hokey twists and risible argot -- apes bad thrillers or unintentionally plays like one. Like De Palma's most personal movies, Femme Fatale is unabashedly overheated and overwrought. Like his most successful movies, however, the hysteria is thrilling -- it gives the film its oneiric power. Femme Fatale will draw comparisons with David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, another dreamlike movie with which it shares certain themes. Less subtle than Lynch's movie, Femme Fatale is like its trashier, no-good cousin: certainly less transcendent, but perhaps more fun.