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Femme Fatale

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Rie Rasmussen, Peter Coyote, Edouard Montoute, Eriq Ebouaney, Thierry Fremont

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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3.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
4.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Brian De Palma is out to get Lynched this time around with a plot that could have been inspired by "Mulholland Drive. Though "Femme fatale," which could be subtitled "Camera Shy," looks more like Mulholland Drivel except for the opening scene when De Palma puts Topkapi into Cannes, the film still has the intrigue evoked by a gorgeous young woman reinventing herself after double-crossing some mean-looking guys who never realized that diamonds are a girl's, not a boy's, best friend. The opening twenty minutes or so, which is (thankfully) almost bereft of dialogue, show De Palma as the masterful visual stylist he is, taking us through an intricate jewel robbery at the Cannes Film Festival of 2001. Fewer eyes are on Sandrine Bonnaire than on a woman in the audience with a $10 million outfit that leaves her this close to nudity, a serpentine hunk of jewelry barely covering her most interesting spots and making her the target of thieves like Black Tie (Eriq Ebouaney) and Racine (Edourd Montoute) who are more interested in her attire than in what it barely covers.

After the heist, Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), whose job is to remove the serpent from its Eve (which she does in a remarkable and gratuitously sexy scene), flees with the treasure, chased by those two meanies who don't like to be double-crossed out of their share of the $10 mil. Stashing herself and the loot in Paris, Laure winds up through an almost ludicrous set of circumstances to be in the home of one Lily (also Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), taking her identity when Lily commits suicide. Running into a successful entrepreneur, Bruce Hewitt Watts (Peter Coyte), on a flight to the U.S., she winds up back in France when Watts becomes the American ambassador to the City of Lights, is captured in a photograph by paparazzo Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), and juggles Nicolas, Black Tie, and Racine in an intricate and often absurdly detoured plan to stay alive.

Borrowing badly from Hitchcock, De Palma punctuates the early scenes with Ryuichi Sakamoto's ominous and unsubtle music to punch up the suspense, but while the director's visual style is often captivating, he falls back on his usual signature by embracing the looniness of both "Body Double" (about an actor obsessed with a beautiful woman he spots through a telescope); and "Dressed to Kill" (psycho-like killer stalks two women); and the particularly unpleasant violence of his "Scarface" remake.

Dialogue, mercifully spare, is not this film's strong point and Antonio Banderas looks as bewildered in real life as he pretends to be in the story. Yet for fans of hoots like "Showgirls"-those of us who like particularly violent scenes, some lapdancing and sex with all its gyrations, and a beatiful face like that of Cosmo and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: and you don't mind stories that reward technique and visual impact without much moral sense; this is not a pic to write off.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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