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Femme Fatale
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Cast:Brian De Palma, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas, Peter Coyote

Brian De Palma's most overtly erotic thriller since Body Double is also his best directorial effort since Carlito's Way, and it shows this provocative filmmaker in top form. De Palma's Hitchcockian touches, once considered to be affectations, have become an integral part of his style, and they're very much in evidence here. Former model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, certainly not one of the screen's great actresses, manages to dominate Femme Fatale by virtue of her unbridled carnality while also eliciting audience sympathy -- a difficult task, given the story, and one she accomplishes with surprising ease. She portrays Laure Ash, a seductive, self-confident thief who pulls off a $10 million diamond heist in Cannes and manages to get out of the country when she is mistaken for a young widow who's on her way to New York to begin a new life. Laure has been involved with paparazzo Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), who encounters the erstwhile thief seven years later as the trophy wife of a high-ranking American diplomat (Peter Coyote) and again insinuates himself into her life, with deadly consequences. It's impossible to say more about De Palma's intricate plot without giving away the many surprises it holds: Serpentine in nature, it slithers along for a time in one direction and then suddenly coils back on itself. His directorial bag of tricks includes the typical visual gimmicks, including agonizingly sluggish pans, lots of slow motion, show-offy camera angles, and breezy coincidence. But Romjin-Stamos carries the day with her sublimely seductive performance as the amoral, manipulative temptress. Icy and duplicitous, she is very much in the mold of the classic film noir anti-heroines, and with her as his muse De Palma is spurred to greater heights of Hitchcockian emulation. The DVD includes two featurettes: a "Dressed to Kill" montage, and a behind-the-scenes look at the film's making. Ed Hulse

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