- Nate Adams
'Deep Water' review: Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas caught in steamy and psychological love affair
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
The perfect Friday night wine-down thriller, Adrian Lyne’s erotica thriller “Deep Water” gives Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas’s the “Fatal Attraction” treatment. 20 years removed from British filmmaker Adrian Lyne’s last project, “Deep Water” arrives at a pinnacle moment for these two stars trying to maintain their recent career ascension. Affleck has been on a roll since hanging up the bat suit fielding several critical hits ala “The Way Back,” “The Last Duel” and being the only salvation in the clunky drama “The Tender Bar.” Likewise for his co-star Armas after a stint in “No Time to Day” and headlining “Knives Out.” Pairing the two together makes sense, they’re both good looking and can basically elicit a variety of emotions with a quick glance over the shoulder. If looks could kill…
“Deep Water” is a very silly movie that has elements of campy B-movie mediocrity. Based on the 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith (which was already made into a film circa 1981), the adapted screenplay by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson doesn’t strive for highbrow art or then again, maybe it kinda does? Levinson, the creator of the already schlocky HBO hit “Euphoria,” knows what audiences expect from this subgenre of adult thrillers. And if you laugh at some of the absurdness (a supporting performance by Tracey Letts would signal he’s in a completely different movie) than it’s probably by design. Ultimately, it’s Affleck and De Armas’ commitment to the material that keeps this otherwise standard thriller afloat.
Affleck plays Vic Van Allen, an ultra wealthy tech guru who made his coin by designing drones that could decimate entire countries. On the surface, it seems Vic leads an ordinary life-he picks up his adorable daughter every day at school, traverses the local scene on his mountain bike, and seems to be in love with his unshackled wife Melinda (De Armas) even when she’s flirtations with other men right in his peripherals. The kink is: Vic seems to be, on some level, okay with Melinda’s openness so long as she never leaves him. Something tells me these two would make excellent guests on an episode of Dr. Phill.
Except, deep down, the extramarital affairs are eating away at Vic, and in one of the films earlier scenes, he tells one of Melinda’s current flings that he murdered the last man who slept with his wife. Is he joking? Logic would say yes, but we all suspect the repressed hubby might be harboring a few secrets. Why else would he get relief from breeding snails in an outdoor greenhouse? I mean, seriously, who does that?!
As Lyne slowly releases Vic’s inner demon, “Deep Water” becomes an engaging morality tale as friends and acquaintances start to question the volatility of his behaviors, with a local writer (Letts) suspecting foul play. To their credit, Lyne and Affleck tow the line between sinister and charismatic, leaving breadcrumbs for the viewer to try and pick apart the further into the muck it goes. Of course, there’s a fair amount of screwing in between all the deviousness and Lyne shoots the scenes with flair, bravado, and passion. The movie might trod along like it’s the smartest thing in the room, but these sequences are a decent reminder why Lyne was always sought after for these projects.
The final twenty minutes are absolutely bonkers in a way that’s likely to determine one’s overall enjoyment of the film, but if you’ve stuck it out that long, I’m not sure much will sway opinion. In the end, “Deep Water” thrives by going back to basics: two bonafide A-listers and a classy director teaming up for a sexy threesome with a fun dose of psychological mind games.
DEEP WATER debuts on Hulu Friday, March 18th.