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Obsessed

By
Obsessed
Released on Friday, May 29 2009

Director: Steve Shill
Screenwriters: David Loughery
Starring: Idris Elba, Beyoncé Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O'Connell, Christine Lahti
Running time: 108 mins
Certificate: 12A

Insanity reigns behind the camera as well as in front of it in this harebrained psychological thriller brought to you by Ms. 'Crazy In Love' herself - the singer, now actress and producer Beyoncé Knowles. She saves the really loopy shtick for the end, but whether you're still in your seat by that point (let alone the edge of it) is another matter completely.

Without doubt, Knowles's wackiest move is choosing to produce this film in the first place not least because it's very, very bad but also because she spends so much of it as set dressing, playing the stable but frankly annoying wife of Idris Elba's suave corporate exec Derek. He takes centre stage trying to fend off the amorous attentions of Lisa, a psychotic temp played by a tragically funny Ali Larter (who gives a better account of herself in TV's Heroes). But in a film of few surprises what really boggles the mind is why Elba - who offered a riveting study of moral complexity in HBO series The Wire - said yes to playing such a limp, colourless character.

Derek flirts with Lisa in the lift as she arrives for her first day at work, but beyond that he shows little interest. A picture of domestic bliss has already been painted at home with wife Sharon and baby son Kyle. Perhaps the idea of being cheated on (even in a film) just didn't sit well with the famously 'bootylicious' Knowles. Whatever the reason, Derek barely bats an eyelid when Lisa obligingly bends and stretches for her fallen paperwork so there's absolutely no chance for any real tension. Instead, former TV director Steve Shill relies on Larter to arch her eyebrows in a certain way that suggests she might be plotting something rather dastardly and adds a spine-tingling piano score that is so incessant it gets right on your nerves as well.

Unlike the bunny-boiling '80s classic Fatal Attraction, the characters are drawn in 2D. They are either good or bad, and there is absolutely no attempt to understand what drives them either way. Every move they make is mind-numbingly predictable, even when it comes to the unstable Lisa. Without that uncertainty it's impossible for Shill to build suspense so the cat and mouse game becomes literal with Lisa chasing Derek into dark corners and pouncing; except that her feline moves aren't in the least bit seductive, just silly. She comes across more like a Barbie meets a Jack-in-the-Box, suddenly bobbing into frame with a big white smile and - whoops - just a slither of underwear… Derek's growing impatience with her is only exceeded by our impatience with him as he keeps running away like a flustered little schoolboy.

There are moments when Derek raises his voice - implying a threat of violence that recalls his work in The Wire - but that's as tense as the film gets. He is maddeningly passive which, as it happens, paves the way for Ms Knowles to do her 'I'm a Survivor' strut towards the end in an effort to keep her family together. It's a screamingly over-the-top finale, like a high-octane edition of The Jerry Springer Show, with Knowles abandoning all sense of dignity to cut loose and kick some "skinny ass" (leaving out the obvious 'w' word). Finally, this seems to explain her fascination with the project, and while there is irony in the spectacle of the all-American blonde grasping at the African-American diva (and all her blingin' accoutrements of success), that is undermined by clichés and the lust with which the carnage is relished. Everyone involved should feel cheap and used.


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