by Mark Kennedy —
If you’re of a certain age, much of the new Netflix thriller “Fatal Affair” will be very familiar. That’s because it’s really just a diluted retelling of another, similarly named film — 1987′s “Fatal Attraction.”
Weirdly, that doesn’t mean this one — reuniting Omar Epps and Nia Long — isn’t worth microwaving a bucket of popcorn and connecting to Netflix when the kids are asleep. It’s actually a bit of a romp, even if the filmmakers didn’t intend that. This is a thriller that feels safe the second time around. You can even enjoy it with the sound off.
Both films share similar DNA — a middle-aged and wealthy but slightly bored spouse has a fling and then that lover goes on a full-on psychopathic rampage until one of them has to die. In 1987, Glenn Close was the spurned lover and Michael Douglas was the cheater.
“Fatal Affair” scrambles the deck, but not by much. Long stars as a well-to-do lawyer in a luxurious beachside property outside San Francisco who is stalked by an unstable acquaintance from her college days, played by Epps.
“I do have the perfect life, the perfect husband, the perfect daughter, the perfect home,” Long’s Ellie tells Epp’s character David when they have a few too many drinks after work one night. (Too bad she’s not in a perfect film.)
David, who crushed on Ellie 20 years ago, is still smitten and probes a weakness in his prey. “You deserve to be with a man who appreciates you,” he tells her.
They make out in one of those dimly lit, beautifully appointed empty and clean nightclub bathrooms that only appear in movies. She suddenly pulls away and goes home. That’s it. (“Affair” in the title is kind of a stretch). He starts a slow boil to Crazytown, but thankfully this time there’s no bunny in the pot.
The second half of the film is the familiar chasing down of his obsession — outwitting caller ID, peeping and blackmailing, the nasty unexpected dinner show-up, the turning her best friend against her. But director Peter Sullivan doesn’t have his heart set on a white-knuckle thriller. He is more happy with a Lifetime film.
Sullivan — who also co-wrote the script with Rasheeda Garner — likes surface beauty more than internal strife. He offers lazy, hazy editing you’d come to expect from a daytime movie, filled with pretty people alone, deep in thought, then sighing and turning toward home, a determined expression on their faces. Waves crashing on the shore are a motif. (Drink whenever you see ’em).
This is a world of the insular rich, where very nice kitchen knives in a very nice wood block are going to be used in ways their German makers never intended. It’s a world of big fluffy beds in mansions and where an Audi with Ellie in the diver’s seat slowly follows a Lexus piloted by David through San Francisco.
It has a script where Ellie, gazing off into the ocean at sunset, tells her daughter, “Now I can breathe.” This is where Epps’ David plays a high-level computer hacker but hasn’t yet enabled biometrics on his own cellphone and chooses terrible passwords on his personal laptop.
Twenty-one years after starring as lovers in “In Too Deep,” Long and Epps get few chances to let sparks fly and the script always gets in the way. “You’re a bad influence,” she tells him. “Things don’t have to be awkward between us,” he tells her. (Well, to be fair, they kind of do.)
There are some nice updates to the same old story, especially the addition of cellphones and security footage to make things feel intrusive. And the filmmakers have incorporated some old tech, namely an LP of that disco favorite “Forget Me Nots,” which is now made forever creepy.
If you rejoice when David appears dead with some 20 minutes to go in the film, you are an optimist. Did you expect that final part would be all about Ellie repairing her marriage in a loving montage? Oh, no. This will end in blood.
Just kidding, not a lot — happy landings for all the main nice characters. No one you cared about is ever in real jeopardy and this film will disappear from memory like butter in that popcorn bowl.
“Fatal Affair,” a Netflix release, is rated TV-14 for sex and language. Running time: 89 minutes. One star out of four.