(On TV, December 2016) I probably shouldn’t have watched Fatal Attraction a few days before Unfaithful, because the comparison isn’t kind to this film (even despite them sharing the same director). In some ways, this gender-flipped story of adultery does uphold some old-fashioned morals of deception and revenge. Alas, it does so at length, never settling for a quick cut when a long sustained shot will do. Diane Lane is rather good as the married woman deciding to indulge in a bit of adultery, and the casting of the two male actors is amusing: Choosing a side of Olivier Martinez over a main course of Richard Gere is the kind of thing that underscores the wish fulfillment of Hollywood movies. There is, as is usual for erotic thrillers, a bit of heat in the initial couplings … although this quickly cools down once the erotic part is done and the thriller part begins. By the time the husband character semi-accidentally kills the adulterer, the plot has simultaneously started and ended at once: the rest of the movie is guilty thumb-twiddling until the end. It doesn’t make for a satisfying film—there’s little to offset the unintentional hilarity of some sequences. It’s also far too long for its thin plot, but so it goes. There may be a clash between Unfaithful’s aspirations as an infidelity drama, and the way it veers into a murder thriller in its third act—the finale kills the questions left by its first act, which itself is far too slow for a thriller. No matter what or why, Unfaithful doesn’t make much of a case for itself—it’s not that bad a choice if you really, really like either or all of the three leads, but it doesn’t quite cohere into something satisfying.
(On Cable TV, June 2014) Sometime, it’s obvious from the beginning that a movie’s not going to get any better. So it is that Dark Tide‘s opening sequence serves as a rote prologue and an eloquent warning: This is a movie about sharks. It’s not a refined effort. It’s not going to be particularly impressive. Halle Berry will bring nothing to the role. And characters will be eaten by sharks. Once this is established, there’s nowhere left for Dark Tide to go despite the remainder of its running time. The plot may move “one year later”, but we know what to expect as two tourists walk aboard her ship and head for the sea in an effort to swim with the sharks. Much of the following hour is spent in false scares, perfunctory character development and minor anticipation as the plot builds itself up toward a pre-ordained third act: By the time the storm starts, night falls, the boat capsizes, and sharks attack, well, we knew it was all leading to this. The only surprise is how badly-shot that ending sequence becomes: A mushy blur of black and white, with occasional flashes of red to tell us that someone is being killed. Director John Stockwell isn’t completely incompetent (there are a few sequences earlier in the movie to suggest that he has at least an idea of what he should be doing) but he completely loses whatever visual grasp he had over the story late in the film, and it’s tempting to simply fast-forward past the noise and the confusion to see who makes it alive to dawn. Berry herself gets a few dramatic bickering scenes with Olivier Martinez (usually a good actor, wasted here) but doesn’t seem to bring anything more to the role than the bikini used on the film’s posters. Dark Tide is really just a tedious and forgettable B-grade thriller, more or less destined to become cable channel filler material. Don’t expect much from it, and if you do there’s always the first few minutes to set you straight.