This is the second film of my “pick three” for May in which a group of us pair off and pick three films for each other to watch. I have to start off by saying it’s a small miracle I actually finished watching what started out as an absolute train wreck. As I sit here writing this review, I’m still marveling that I didn’t turn it off at any point, but let me back this up a tick.

Brian De Palma directed this and from what I’ve seen of his films, I’ve loved his work. This is the guy who did Scarface, Carrie, and Blow Out, which were all fantastic. It’s been a long time, but I remember enjoying The Untouchables which he directed as well. He also did the first Mission: Impossible, which I admittedly despised the first time I saw it. For the record, I did watch that again not long ago and enjoyed it a lot more.

As far as the cast, Rebecca Romijn stars as the main character, and Antonio Banderas is also in this, who for me he’s a bit hit or miss with his films, but at least the overall cast was decent. A few other faces I recognize from other movies, but I couldn’t name them without looking: Gregg Henry, whom I know from Payback, and Peter Coyote.

So going into this I was at least intrigued enough by what my pick three partners chose for me and everything starts off well enough. Romijn’s character is lying naked on a hotel bed watching French TV with English subtitles. A couple minutes in and her partner in crime bursts in the door upset that she’s running late.

Femme Fatale

See, the whole story revolves around this garment that has ten million dollars’ worth of diamonds and how this crew is going to steal it. Garment is really too strong of a word. It’s really some tubing with diamonds that winds around this rail thin model’s body. She’s basically naked on the top with boobs and nipples hanging out. I guess I should mention that the reason she’s wearing this getup is that she’s attending Cannes or something like that with a director who apparently owns the garment. His movie is premiering and he’s making a huge show of it.

As the scantily clad model, the director, and security entourage enter the building, Romijn’s character eyes the scantily clad model and motions toward the bathroom like she’s picking up someone at a bar for a quickie. It’s pretty much at this point things start falling apart because once in the bathroom, they occupy a semi-transparent stall and commence to all but having sex right then and there while one of Romijn’s cohorts sits just outside the stall acquiring all the pieces of jewelry laden clothing as they fall. The scene is very drawn out to the point that I wondered if this was going to turn into full-on porn.

Femme Fatale

From there, another cohort climbs into the ventilation system pretty much like the hanging vault scene from Mission: Impossible and uses a laser of all things to cut through some duct. There’s a cat in the control room which made absolutely no sense. Eventually, the group gets found out and things go completely sideways from there. Romijn’s character flees, gets mistaken for someone else, bails to the US, marries an ambassador and returns to France seven years later. Don’t worry about spoilers, everything I just described is the setup and it takes place in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie.

Between the egregious lesbian scene, the laser, the cat, the obvious Mission: Impossible ripoffs, the odd split screens I hate to see, and just overall bad start to this, I wanted to stop watching it. I guess this could be described as watching a train wreck happen where you can’t turn away no matter how much you try. So why am I sitting here writing this and going on about how bad this thing was?

Femme Fatale

The reason I’m even bothering with this is the payoff at the end. You watch this trash heap of a film that shows Romijn’s character screwing over everyone in her path and then there is this massive 180 in the story that comes completely out of left field. From there, the film goes in a completely other direction for the last twenty or thirty minutes to the point that it actually made the first two-thirds of this thing worth watching no matter how ridiculous the first part was.

Femme Fatale

I would and will not recommend this movie to anyone unless you want to see what the huge shift in the story is. I will write about it because of the massive swing of hating it and nearly turning it off to ending on a nod of respect for what a change this thing took. I’m not sure if it’s genius or madness. There is often a thin line between the two, and this film treads it. I’m also surprised the cast and film studio ran with this thing like they did. For a score, I’m giving this a 3/5 simply because it made such an insane shift at the end otherwise this was only a 2/5.

★★★

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