A couple of weeks ago I received a solicitation from a publicist asking if I was interested in receiving and reviewing the first season set of something called Femme Fatales, a late night offering from Cinemax. The solicitation promised lots of T&A, rivers of blood and guts and a whole bunch of gorgeous, bloodthirsty women in exciting adventures.
What the hell, I thought. Why not try it out?
Femme Fatales certainly isn't the greatest TV show ever broadcast, but it is fun, escapist action adventure with a certain level of style and intentional camp, and of course an awful lot of T&A. As this is a late night Skinemax show, there's unsurprisingly plenty of bare boob and ass in literally every episode of this series. That's a given; we expect long, lingering shots of mostly surgically enhanced tits to go with softcore simulated sex in all of these kinds of shows. The sooner you get used to that fact, the sooner you'll move past the point of lingering on the T&A and start to enjoy the wacky fun of these stories. Because these stories really are very fun in a kind of low-budget B-movie way.
"The White Flower", for instance, posits a pair of bank robbers who invite a pair of hookers to their room. One of the bank robbers is haunted by a premonition he continues to see in his dreams: he will die when he's given a while flower. Throughout the episode, there are hints that the man will soon be confronted by his death premonition as the hookers work their manipulative magic on the men – but the truth of the white flower is revealed in a final shocking moment that feels especially clever for such a low-budget show.
"Something Like Murder," meanwhile, is a twist on the old trope of a wife murdering her husband for his inheritance. It involves a lesbian couple who come together over a massage table to scheme and plan the killing. The relationship between the two women is surprisingly moving, with an unexpected amount of tenderness between them, which makes their eventual fate – another rather cool twist ending – even more shocking than it could have been.
The Girls Gone Wild franchise receives a dark twist with "Girls Gone Dead," an intensely dark revenge fantasy that plays on a surprisingly empathetic take on the toll that exploitative videos can have on the lives of the people who are manipulated into appearing on them. There are a number of scenes in this episode that are genuinely upsetting, as even the nude scenes have a painful and emotionally abusive quality about them. This shadowy revenge fantasy provides a surprisingly feminist take on the material that it's satirizing; the final scene of this episode may be the darkest in the entire series.
Not all of the episodes are completely dark. "Speed Date" puts a dorky computer games designer on an online date with a gorgeous super-spy. The delirious story is a very silly take on the spy game, along with a side-trip into a kinky sex party that provides a bunch of fun silly jokes. The final confrontation with the evil villain of the story is a deliriously wacky twist on our expectations, and the whole story feels like a kind of live-action episode of Venture Brothers.
Other episodes have simple hooks that lead stories in surprising directions: the two part "Behind Locked Doors" puts a Lindsay Lohan type femme fatale in a jail cell where she tries and fails to manipulate her way out of horrible situations; "Till Death Do Us Part" starts with the premise "Rachel Worth wakes on her wedding day to find a dead stripper in her bed"; "Haunted" is a haunted house story where the ghost is a large-breasted evil woman.
The final two-part story, "Visions", features cameos by many of the characters we've seen in previous episod
es, and the full-fledged returns of three characters from previous episodes, which gives this season of Femme Fatales a nice sense of closure. I didn't expect that level of detail at all, and it definitely provided a fun jolt for the season finale.
Honestly, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed these stories. And it wasn't just the copious shots of gorgeous breasts and butts that made me enjoy these episodes. I like breasts as much as the next man, but after watching just a few episodes of this series, I found myself fast-forwarding through the sex scenes to get to the good parts. The simulated lovemaking is honestly pretty dull in most episodes and brings the story to a standstill while the show earns its place on the Skinemax Late Night lineup.
No, what I really enjoyed was the fun, B-movie snap of most of these episodes. The Lohan-in-jail episode was just a lot of fun; it's hard to not enjoy seeing a cheesy tabloid scandal play out on your TV screen in exactly the way you might want it to be. "Bad Medicine", the story of a nurse taking revenge against an LA gang-banger, feels like a direct-to-DVD flick trimmed to 28 minutes. And "Angel and Demons" is a serial killer drama that could have come right from the long cache of forgotten made-for-TV movies from Lifetime.
I was also really pleasantly surprised by the fact that the show has a pretty strong feminist edge to it. I admit that as a middle aged white man, I may not be the right person to make that assessment for these episodes, but it's fun to see the women come out on top of so many of these battles. The "Girls Gone Dead" episode is probably the most overtly feminist episode of the bunch, but "Angel and Demons" presents a mysterious and strong woman seeking revenge for other injustices and the conclusion of "Bad Medicine" shows the ultimate of women inverting danger into empowerment.
These 13 episodes are cheesy, low-budget T&A yarns that are surprisingly clever, charming and just plain fun. I went in with low expectations and was surprised and delighted by how much the story exceeded my expectations. Bring on more Femme Fatales!