Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is a very bad American girl who does very bad things. She steals diamonds from an actress at the Cannes Film Festival cheats her partners in crime wears a lot of very suggestive underwear and has lots and lots of manipulative sex with women and with men. Set mainly in Belleville France and spanning seven years--twice--Femme Fatale asks whether or not leopards can change their spots and if they can what does it take? Meeting a nice girl who just lost her husband and child--and who happens to look just like you--sure can help although if you choose to steal her passport and identity after you watch her blow her brains out odds are your leopard-skin lingerie is there to stay. Of course all any proper bad girl really needs to turn her black heart to gold is the love of a good man so when Nicholas Bardo (Antonio Banderas) ex-paparazzo enters the picture we know it's only a matter of time before Laure comes to her senses.
Stamos (Rollerball) is a bad bad girl in Femme Fatale and she's got a bit of a reputation as a bad bad actress in real life which is largely the reason for the poor pre-release press this film has received much to director Brian De Palma's (Mission to Mars) chagrin. But believe it or not she's not completely horrible in the film which required her to speak French (she did passably well) strip to her skivvies (she did remarkably well--more than once) and play multiple characters. The scenes between Stamos and the slickly charming brooding Banderas (Original Sin) are the highlights of the film but sometimes Banderas is so campy that it throws the whole thing off kilter. Why in the heck is Banderas prancing around and lisping pretending to be gay and eliciting chuckles and sometimes even outright laughter from the audience? I mean he's funny and he makes the scene funny and hey I laughed. But this is supposed to be noir. You're not supposed to laugh.
Banderas' schizophrenic performance is merely a symptom of Femme Fatale's fatal flaw: it's a derivative film that just can't decide what it wants to be. It tries to be a sexy tale of the twisted woman à la Basic Instinct but Stamos just doesn't have enough mystique about her to pull that off (shedding her clothes at every possible moment doesn't help). It strives to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller but unlike The Sixth Sense a film whose surprise ending left audiences wanting to see the movie again to check for clues the revelation at the end of Femme Fatale leaves you feeling like an idiot because you should have seen it coming. After the twist the film tells the same story a second time with the heroine making a different choice and thereby changing the life we thought she had lived (Sliding Doors anyone?). It's interesting to analyze Femme Fatale as a pastiche of modern filmmaking but taken as a whole the movie's got a lot less going for it than any of the films it tries to emulate.
Trouble Every Day takes nearly an hour to get going but it ultimately tells the very choppy story of afflicted American researcher Shane Brown's journey to Paris to unravel the murky circumstances surrounding a former colleague's experiments which have resulted in blood-soaked cannibalistic tragedies. First though we meet young Parisienne Core who appears stranded on a road. She stops a trucker who later turns up hidden in the high grass off the highway dead and horribly deformed. Later two punks are skulking around back at the boarded up house where Core's husband Leo usually keeps her locked up. The punks will eventually break into Leo's house where one of them will have a sexual encounter with Core who turns the tryst into a cannibalistic bloodbath. Meanwhile in Paris Dr. Shane Brown and his wife June arrive at their hotel to begin their honeymoon. Shane is mysteriously troubled by incidents that might have begun in Guyana and involve his pilfering of Leo's research. Shane embarks upon secretive inquiries into Leo's whereabouts. Shane learns of Leo's whereabouts but has his own messy encounter with the hotel maid who he nibbles to death. An adorable puppy that Shane buys during his wanderings suggests a ray of hope for Shane's marriage although some telltale blood in Shane's shower might arouse June's suspicions. Sound convoluted? It is. The going's rough and murky in this far-from-type-A wannabe horror shockfest of arty pretentiousness erotic content and self-delusion--this latter referring to the filmmakers' notions that Trouble Every Day might provide any appeal to filmgoers.
Vincent Gallo is appropriately creepy and sinister-looking as the twisted tormented Shane and Beatrice Dalle ably carries the burden of lethally lusty captive Core afflicted by unslaked cannibalism. Tricia Vessey isn't given much more to do than be Shane's cute and clueless new wife just as Alex Descas as doctor Leo is hardly challenged. Although his Leo is relatively passive the script or direction should have burdened him with the angst of a conflicted and tormented Dr. Frankenstein whose afflicted wife craves Big Macs dressed in pants not Thousand Island dressing. The supporting cast is fine and everyone in this Paris-based story wins points by delivering most of their lines in English.
Points also go to blood 'n' guts director Claire Denis for guts if not all the icky-drippy blood on display here. The guts have to do with the boldness required to take so much time to get to the story--almost an hour--by first introducing bites er bits and pieces of an array of seemingly unconnected characters and situations. Such frustrating unfolding of plot creates the er appetite for the story and er feeds the question--what is going on here? Denis favors montages slow and sensual pans unusual camera angles and snippets of graphic footage depicting frontal nudity sexual encounters bloodbaths. But as Shakespeare might have put it--the play's the thing not the foreplay.