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Film / Fatale

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One mistake can change your life.
Fatale is a 2020 American thriller film starring Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, and Mike Colter. Directed by Dion Taylor, it had a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 18, 2020.

Successful and married sports agent Derrick Tyler (Ealy) spends an illicit night of sexual passion with LAPD Detective Valerie "Val" Quinlan (Swank) in Las Vegas, with the two later agreeing that it was a one-time occurrence. However, all is not as it seems, with Derrick soon finding himself ensnared in a murderous and spiteful scheme orchestrated by Valerie.

Tropes in this film include:

  • Accidental Murder: When Derrick tries to warn Carter of his ex-wife's nefarious intentions, the ensuing struggle results in the latter accidentally being shot dead.
  • Asshole Victim: Both Rafe and Tracie become this when Valerie kills them as part of her scheme. Even so, Derrick attends Tracie's funeral.
  • Batman Gambit: Aside from making several threats to Derrick to keep him compliant, Valerie's plan also hinges on him and other people acting the way they normally would.
  • Big Bad: Valerie orchestrates the scheme that gradually ruins Derrick's life.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Tracie Tyler turns out to be this, as she's the mastermind behind an attempt on Derrick's life that her illicit boyfriend Rafe carried out. It was all supposed to look like a burglary which got out of hand, and after their true colors are exposed, Valerie shoots them dead.
  • Best Friend: Rafe Grimes is this to Derrick until The Reveal that he's been an Evil Former Friend for quite some time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While he outs Valerie as a Dirty Cop turned Spree Killer with an audio recording of their final confrontation, Derrick now has to move on from the deaths of his wife, his best friend, his cousin, one of his cousin's friends, and Carter. He'll also have to live with the fact that he's Carter's accidental killer.
  • Blatant Burglar: It's incredibly obvious that the disguised and masked person who broke into the Tyler residence was a burglar. However, the truth is far more morbid—Rafe was wearing the disguise, and he was there to kill Derrick on Tracie's behalf.
  • Business Trip Adultery: While on a business trip to Las Vegas, a man is encouraged to take off his wedding ring and have a fling. He meets a woman wanting casual sex, and they spend the night together. The next morning, it seems that they expect much more; she even locks away his phone. He returns home to his wife, but their house is broken into that night. The detective who arrives to investigate is in fact the woman he slept with, and she tries to bribe him for her silence.
  • Corrupt Politician: Valerie's ex-husband Carter Heywood is a politician who's caught up in a corruption scandal.
  • The Danza: Tyrin Turner as Derrick's cousin named...Tyrin.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Valerie tries this twice.
    • First, she suggests to Derrick that they allow Tyrin to be blamed for her murder spree after she kills him, but he refuses to let it happen.
    • The second time happens in the film's climax, with Valerie trying to talk Derrick into lowering his guard so that she can murder him and then frame him for her scheme.
  • A Deadly Affair: Tracie was going for Type I regarding her affair with Rafe, as she ordered him to break into the Tyler residence and kill her husband Derrick so they could split his fortune amongst themselves.
  • Dirty Cop: Valerie is unquestionably this given that she's an LAPD detective who will do anything and everything in order to regain custody of her daughter Haley.
  • The Dragon: Rafe is this to Tracie, as she instructed him to don a masked disguise and kill Derrick so they can split his fortune amongst themselves.
  • Exact Words: Near the end of the film, Valerie ominously voices her willingness to murder more people in order to regain custody of Haley. That includes Derrick.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Tyrin Abenathy is an ex-convict who's pressuring his cousin Derrick to give him money, he's also not about to let Valerie frame him for her crimes.
  • Evil All Along: Tracie and Rafe were conspiring to kill Derrick so that she could inherit his wealth and split it with her illicit boyfriend.
  • Evil Former Friend: Rafe became this to Derrick once he began having an affair with Derrick's wife Tracie, and it's taken even further after she ordered him to murder his former Best Friend.
  • Evil Wears Black: This honor goes to the masked person wearing an all-black disguise who's responsible for breaking into Derrick and Tracie's residence. Too bad that person happens to be Rafe.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Rafe pressures Derrick about selling their talent agency to a bigger corporation and then eggs him on into having a one-night stand. His questionable behavior makes a lot more sense once Rafe's affair with Tracie is exposed.
    • Tracie works late so often that it makes Derrick suspicious of her. She's not working late at all, as she's having an affair with Rafe.
    • On the morning after their tryst, Valerie locks Derrick's phone in her hotel room's safe and coerces him into having sex with her again before she finally allows him to leave. It's only a small sample of the manipulative tactics she goes on to use throughout the film so she can keep him under her thumb.
  • Greed: This is probably the only reason Tracie and Rafe betrayed Derrick by having an affair, as it's noted that the illicit couple were after his fortune and wanted to split it amongst themselves.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Derrick's wife Tracie constantly works late, and once he's egged on by Rafe, Derrick has a one-night stand with Valerie that he quickly grows to regret. On the other hand, Tracie and Rafe regret nothing about their affair, with the former even ordering the latter to kill Derrick.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Tyrin and his friend Bumpy confront Valerie about her plan to frame Derrick for the scheme she's orchestrating. Realizing they could ruin said scheme, she shoots both of them dead.
    • Later on, it extends to Derrick, as Valerie wants to kill him not only because of what he knows, but also since he's no longer useful to her.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: It's initially left ambiguous what is driving Valerie to such manipulative and murderous villainy. The film slowly reveals that everything is actually in the name of taking custody of her daughter Haley away from her ex-husband, who is also Haley's father.
  • I Lied: In the film's climax, Valerie deceitfully claims she doesn't want Derrick dead, but by then, he had already anticipated her second attempt at a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Carter follows through with his threat to make sure Valerie never sees their daughter Haley again by manipulating the Californian court system. Even so, she did repeatedly violate the restraining order he filed against her.
  • Karmic Death: After becoming a Spree Killer as part of her efforts to frame Derrick and regain custody of Haley, Valerie meets this fate when he kills her in self-defense.
  • Karma Houdini: Derrick walks away scott free for the death of Carter. Which is accident or no, a murder he REALLY DID commit
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Or rather, the would-be killer and his employer become the killed. Tracie hired her illicit boyfriend Rafe to murder Derrick, only for both of them to be murdered by Valerie.
  • Killed Offscreen: This happens to Tracie and Rafe courtesy of Valerie, who shoots the illicit couple dead in order to drag Derrick even further into her scheme.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: The film's climax culminates in Derrick killing Valerie after she tries to kill him.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Valerie knows what buttons to push in order to make Derrick dance to her tune, and she's not above using threats so she can ensure his compliance.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Valerie often resorts to murder to further her scheme, with her victims including people she doesn't know well and those who just know too much.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Valerie's plan goes almost flawlessly, and she would have gotten away with it if Derrick didn't anticipate her desire to kill him.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Valerie is heavily implied to have this attitude regarding the drunken incident which resulted in her losing custody of her daughter to her ex-husband.
    • Once Tracie is confronted by Derrick about her affair with Rafe, she simply tells him not to act surprised.
  • No Name Given: It's never discovered what the name of Carter's new wife is.
  • Recovered Addict: Valerie was an alcoholic up until the incident three years prior during which Haley accidentally shot herself.
  • The Reveal:
    • Tracie and Rafe were having an affair, and the former ordered for Derrick's death at the hands of the latter.
    • Three years prior, Valerie got drunk and left her service gun unattended, resulting in her daughter Haley accidentally shooting herself after she found it. As a result, Valerie's then-husband Carter—who is also Haley's father—divorced and filed a restraining order against her. She was also stripped of her custodial rights.
    • The true motive behind Valerie's scheme is her desire to regain custody of her daughter Haley by all means she views as necessary.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: When she's not at work, Valerie is stalking Carter, and it's certainly not out of a crush on either him or his new wife.
  • Spree Killer: Valerie gradually becomes this as the film goes on.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Derrick is portrayed as this, especially after Valerie sets her scheme into motion and Tracie's own murderous adultery comes to light.
  • Taking the Kids: Valerie wants full custody of her daughter, and it's the true driving force behind her sinister actions.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Rafe doesn't respect Derrick's desire not to sell their sports talent agency to a bigger corporation, and he also convinces him to have an affair as a way of taking out his annoyance with his wife Tracie. Then it turns out that he's having an affair with Tracie.
  • Trophy Wife: Carter's unnamed new wife is this for Carter, and even the film's page on the Internet Movie Database spells it out.
  • The Unfettered: Nothing and nobody will stop Valerie from trying to regain custody of her daughter.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Derrick slowly becomes this to Valerie.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Aside from Derrick, Tyrin, and Bumpy, no one else is aware of Valerie's depravity because she's a commended LAPD detective. That changes in the film's final scenes once Derrick uses an audio recording to out her as a villainous mastermind.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Derrick removes his ring twice.
    • The first occasion of this takes place before he introduces himself as "Darren from Seattle" to Valerie, who he goes on to have a fateful one-night stand with.
    • The second occasion happens after he confronts Tracie and Rafe about their affair and the latter's attempt to murder him on the former's behalf. This time, though, he removes the ring out of anger.
  • Wham Shot: While they're observing a house, Derrick and Valerie watch as Tracie cheats on him with Rafe.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • With both of her parents dead by the end of the film, it's left unknown what happens to Haley.
    • Much like with her stepdaughter, the fate of Carter's new wife is never revealed.
  • Woman Scorned: Valerie is not happy to have been discarded so easily by Derrick. In fact, she decides to make him the centerpiece of a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit after he refuses to frame his late cousin for her crimes.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Valerie intended to pull this off on Derrick, but it backfires and results in her own death.