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Reviewed April 4th, 2003 by David Nusair


With Femme Fatale, Brian De Palma has returned to the sort of movie he does best. Filled with twists, double-crosses, and visually stunning sequences, Femme Fatale is a throwback to his earlier films like Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.

The movie opens with a fantastic jewelry heist set at the Cannes Film Festival, with Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) playing a pivotal role in the crime. But, not surprisingly, she decides against sharing the loot with her partners-in-crime and escapes with the $10 million booty. Meanwhile, a down-on-his-luck photographer (Antonio Banderas) is about to find himself embroiled in Laure's scheme.

Femme Fatale, like all good noir films, is almost impossible to describe without giving something away. And a great deal of what makes the movie so enjoyable are the many surprises that crop up along the way. It's almost impossible to predict what's coming next, and just when you think you've got a handle on the story, De Palma turns everything on its head.

The movie features a surprisingly effective performance from supermodel-turned-actress Romijn-Stamos. This is a character that's always manipulating those around her, and Romijn-Stamos has to be able to instantly switch from cruel indifference to sympathy-inducing vulnerability. She pulls it off, creating one of the most interesting female characters to hit the screen since John Dahl's The Last Seduction.

But as good as she is, Femme Fatale belongs to De Palma. The movie is chock full of the various camera tricks that made him famous more than two decades ago, from slow-motion sequences to uninterrupted long takes. He's crafted a movie that, if nothing else, is always amazing just to look at. Fortunately, though, his screenplay is just as interesting as his visual style and Femme Fatale could even be considered somewhat of a comeback for the director – whose Mission to Mars was visually stunning but ultimately dull and derivative.

Audio: Femme Fatale is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack, and it’s quite good. There are several sequences in which the rear speakers really come alive, such as the opening scene set at the Cannes film festival. The paparazzi seems to be all around, and the same is true for much of the film. A good track.

Video: Ditto this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. This is a new flick, and the transfer is essentially seamless.

Extras: There are a good amount of extras here, though (as expected) no De Palma commentary. First up is a section called Featurettes, which houses three such mini-documentaries: “Visualizing Femme Fatale,” “Femme Fatale: An Appreciation,” and “Femme Fatale: Dressed to Kill.” The first one runs 11 minutes and essentially details the casting process and where the idea for the film came from. The second one, running 22 minutes, is essentially a continuation of the first one and acts as a substitute for a commentary track. De Palma talks about all the major facets of the film, including what it all means, which makes this section of the disc invaluable to fans. The third is incredibly useless; running a minute and a half, it seems to be a synopsis of the film told through clips, voice-over, and still photographs. This is probably one of the most pointless extras I’ve ever seen on a DVD. Rounding out the disc is a redundant four-minute behind the scenes doc (which doesn’t contain anything that wasn’t already covered in the featurettes), some cast/crew bios, and European and American trailers for the film.

Conclusion: Newcomers to De Palma should get a real kick out of Femme Fatale, while fans will certainly appreciate a return to the genre that made him famous.


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