When I first caught wind of the redundant "sex thriller" Obsessed, my first reaction was to adopt the voice of a blaxploitation announcer and Twitter things like "Bang! It's a black-on-white cat fight you KNOW is outta sight! Look out for the affirmative action Fatal Attraction, baby! Obsessed!" I walked in expecting a base, push-button and knee-jerk story of "white hoochie vs. black wife" story ... but unfortunately the movie turned out way too plain and generic to bother with such immaturities. Had they "trashed" it up a little bit, then Obsessed could have been a grade-A B-movie worth laughing at and cheering with. As it stands, Obsessed feels a lot like a refugee from the Lifetime Network that just happened to have a budget.

Idris Elba (who delivers a performance better than the movie deserves) plays a very successful investment banker named Derek who catches the eye of a pretty new temp (Ali Larter) called Lisa. But Derek is quite married, you see, and rather happily, as would you be if you got to sleep with Beyonce Knowles every night. But that doesn't stop Lisa from (ever so s l o w l y) getting under the skin of poor Derek, and before too long we're dealing with a very basic yet powerful case of, well, obsession. No matter how many times he professes his love for wife Sharon, the tantalizing temp just keeps on flirting. Heavily, shamelessly, redundantly. After about an hour of altercations between Derek and Lisa both predictable and obvious, we finally get into the Act III catharsis, which is when the frequently-dormant Beyonce gets to stand tall and kick some serious booty.


It's pretty admirable that screenwriter David Loughery and director Steve Shill seem intent on avoiding the basic "black vs. white" tactics, as if to clearly indicate that the movie is about adultery and obsession, not race. Once things come to a head (about 15 minutes later than they should), one might expect the conflict to devolve into "white ^*%@" this and "black @#$%" that. Indeed the issues regarding race are never even mentioned -- which only helps to make the flick seem more forced and sanitized than it ought to be. Despite strong work by Elba and Larter (and passable stuff from the lovely Beyonce), not to mention a few welcome appearances from Jerry O'Connell, Bruce McGill, and Christine Lahti, Obsessed is considerably too "safe" to be a provocative thriller or an incendiary drama, and it's way too flat and sedate to qualify as a movie bad enough to mock.

The major faults lie at the feet of the screenwriter and / or the editor, because rare is the film as clunkily predictable as Obsessed. Nearly every scene is predicated with a hovering shot of boring skyscrapers, the meager exposition parcels are delivered in chunky little drops by side characters who do practically nothing, and several scenes (including the film's most distasteful) have literally no bearing on the plot. It's a shame, too, because Elba and Larter have some rather interesting scenes together, exchanges that work on a variety of levels (thanks mainly to the actors), yet they're stuck between big chunks of celluloid that feel as if they were spat out by Basic Screenwriting Software Version 1.

So what could have been a frank and insightful tale of non-mutual attraction between people of different color -- or a new-era blaxploitation B-movie worth hooting for -- hits the screens as a pretty, pre-packaged, and entirely conventional piece of "thriller"-style melodrama. Despite some strong performances and a rather stately directorial sense, the movie telegraphs where it's going from the third scene on, and then it proceeds to take you there in very languid fashion. Forget "obsessed," this movie barely seems interested.

categories Reviews, Cinematical