Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Idris Elba,
Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Bruce McGill, Jerry O’Connell, Christine Lahti
Director: Steve Shill
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: August 4, 2009
“You think you crazy? I’ll SHOW you crazy.”
It astounds me the amount of money audiences will throw at a certain movie, especially one so cheap and gloriously unoriginal as Obsessed. I thought Paul Blart: Mall Cop got too much of a kind response from ticket buyers earlier in the year, but when I saw how much this movie brought in its opening weekend, I was astounded with shock. It’s one of those cases where I do end up questioning the taste of American moviegoers.
My anger was also factored in by the fact that Crank: High Voltage, a movie I loved and was urging everyone on the planet to go see, was being ignored by audiences as this movie was enjoying its moment at the top of the box office. Now, it probably doesn’t seem fair for me to call into question the judgment of American moviegoers when I’m cheering the virtues of a movie like Crank: High Voltage. But here’s the thing; Crank is modern day grindhouse exploitation that was also a knockout piece of filmmaking and had the balls to take its trashiness to the next level without looking back.
Whereas Obsessed tries to be nothing more than a trashy rehash of Fatal Attraction with the added bonus of an interracial affair to spice things up, but ends up just being a cheap thriller of the lowest common denominator, not to mention a horrible piece of filmmaking. And how insulting is it in 2009 to give a movie such a generic title? What bugs me the most is that, based on how big a hit it was at the box office, whenever the title Obsessed is mentioned people will most likely think of this piece of garbage rather than the 1976 classic of the same name directed by Brian De Palma, a director who could work wonders with material even this lousy.
Actually, what bugs me the most is that an audience even exists for a movie like this. Since the marketing team behind the movie chose to focus on selling a climatic catfight between its two female stars, it seems to me that those who are fond of such things in life as, say, the fights on Jerry Springer would find a lot to enjoy here. And sure enough, many of them showed up on opening weekend.
But enough with my ranting on such side issues. Allow me to delve into the movie itself, which has even more to rant about. I’m sure that after seeing the ads for the movie, you’re curious to know the many layers of this complex tale.
Derek Charles (Idris Elba) is a successful financial advisor at an investment firm. He has a beautiful wife on his side, Sharon (Beyonce Knowles), as well as a baby boy. Things are going great in life for Derek, as he has just bought a nice house in the suburbs. But since things are going SO great for Derek, something will eventually come along to throw his life in the crapper.
And that toilet flusher appears in the form of Lisa (Ali Larter), a newly hired temp. The movie doesn’t waste any time hinting at Lisa’s crazy demeanor. In no time, she’s listening in on Derek’s phone calls to his wife before elevating herself to the cliché of popping up in front of Derek’s office window out of the blue and with a scary music cue to back it up.
Derek, as any guy would, is nice to the girl. He even comforts her after she has an emotional breakdown at work following a bad break up with her boyfriend. Then comes the office Christmas party where, after having a few drinks too many, Lisa corner’s Derek in the bathroom and comes onto him intensely, though he rejects her.
Now let’s talk about this office Christmas party, because it’s merits serious discussion. Prior to the party, we are informed of the rule that no spouses are allowed at the Christmas party. Now, this leads me to two conclusions; either the screenplay needed the worst excuse in the world to have a scene where Lisa comes onto Derek in the bathroom, or this particular investment firm wants all their employees to screw up their marriage.
Anyway, what seemed like an honest mistake only leads to more lunacy on behalf of the ever-so-subtle Lisa. She apologizes to Derek for her behavior at the party by forcing herself into his car and undressing herself. After Derek reacts angrily to her advances, she quits her job the next day.
That is, her job as a temp where she in fact made money. She’d much rather continue her side job of tormenting Derek at every possible turn. The stalking escalates from emails to tracking him down at his hotel during a business trip, during which she is kind enough to spike Derek’s drink with a sleeping pill and then rape him in his sleep.
The first in the long laundry list of problems with this movie is the character of Lisa. She’s quite possibly the most cartoonish femme fatale I’ve ever seen, and not in a good way. There’s no real explanation for why she’s crazy, and it doesn’t help that Ali Larter, as hot and tempting as she is, injects the role with every bit of overacting she can muster, which apparently is a lot.
There’s a crucial turning point in Obsessed, and it’s quite a fascinating one at that. Few movies have been able to execute such an act. It’s fascinating in that what already started out as a bad movie becomes an even worse movie in the second half, and it very much concerns the one cast member that lured audiences to the movie in the first place.
That would be Beyonce Knowles, the beautiful and stunning pop star who as an actress is…well, she’s very beautiful. The first half of the movie deals with Derek and his struggles to evade Lisa at every turn. However, when the second half arrives, in which Sharon finds out about everything that’s been going on, the movie inexplicably turns into The Beyonce Show.
And the transition to focusing everything on Beyonce is badly handled on so many levels. For one thing, her character is not the least bit likable, so much to the point that she’s just about as crazy as Lisa. Try, if you can, to make absolute sense of the following: Derek, of course, was keeping everything involving Lisa a secret (and for good reason), but when the police inform Derek and Sharon that Lisa was tried to kill herself with pills and was naked in Derek’s hotel room, Sharon doesn’t seem to focus on any other detail but the “naked in Derek’s hotel room” part.
Upset beyond belief, but sure to never once let Derek explain his side of the story, Sharon tells him, “Get out of MY house!”. Now, mind you, she doesn’t work and the only reason she’s in a house is because of Derek’s successful job. Now, if Beyonce is going to hog the screen and make the rest of the movie about her, how in the name of Sasha Fierce are we supposed to sympathize with her if she treats her husband like this, not to mention claim a house as her own in spite of never working a day in her life?
Not only does Sharon kick Derek out of the house, but Beyonce Knowles pretty much kicks Idris Elba out of the rest of the movie. What we get in the time remaining is a couple of montages of Beyonce dealing with her pain (God, I just feel so sorry for her) and the inevitable climactic catfight between her and Lisa. Here’s another interesting fact; the fight only takes place because Lisa lets herself in the house on the one occasion Sharon forgets to set the code to the alarm she had installed in the previous scene. To that I say, “way to go, movie!”. Bleh!
And as if this movie couldn’t get any worse, this fight is one for the history books in terms of god-awfulness. Aside from the fact that the fight choreography was handled by a 90 year old woman, we get an extended scene of non-suspense as Lisa chases Sharon to the house attic, where she is force to balance herself on a set of beams as Lisa keeps swinging her weapon of choice and missing. It’s hard to describe the horrendousness of this scene in words, but watching it actually play out you’d swear the filmmakers were filming the fight as if it were set on the rope bridge from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The bottom line is this; Obsessed manages to be generic and excessively bad all at once, with basically no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Elba, so amazing as drug dealer Stringer Bell on The Wire, is given nothing to do here, in addition to being completely tossed out of the second half. In fact, had it not been for the pleasing eye candy provided by Ms. Knowles and Larter, this would’ve easily been a flat zero. If you want a real adult thriller, you’re much better off revisiting something along the lines of Basic Instinct or Disclosure.
Can’t fault the video quality on this Blu-ray from Sony, which is close to top of the line. The movie isn’t without a certain sleek style, and the 1080p does make a fine enhancement of various settings, particularly the interior of the investment firm. Hints of grain in a scene or two, but nothing close to remarkably distracting. Colors are extremely well displayed, in addition.
The Dolby TrueHD doesn’t really get the aural juices flowing until the more “allegedly” suspense-laden second half. But on the whole, the mix does serve various elements well, especially music and dialogue delivery. As hard as it was to not be aggravated by the final catfight, it does get a nice sounding punch, I’ll give it that.
Not much to get OBSESSED over (ha, see what I did there), as all we get in the way of extras are three generic feautrettes; “Playing Nicely Together”, “Obsessed: Dressed to Kill” (combining two De Palma titles), and “Girl Fight”, which does in fact take an in-depth look at the catfight between heavyweight contenders Ali and Beyonce and features an interview with a fight choreographer. Um…WHAT??? Lastly, we get Bonus Previews for additional Sony titles, including Lakeview Terrace and Cadillac Records.
I love thrillers, even the trashy ones, so you know there’s something wrong when an intentionally fun trashy thriller is unsuccessful at being fun and way too successful at being a turd. Obsessed is easily one of the worst movies of this year, or any year.