'An Affair to Die For': Film Review

Not even worth stopping for.
2/1/2019

Claire Forlani plays a woman who gets more than she bargained for when she commits adultery in a thriller directed by Victor Garcia.

Don't even bother trying to keep up with the convoluted plot machinations of Victor Garcia's thriller about adultery gone wrong. Set in the lavish suite of an upscale Aspen hotel, An Affair to Die For is an erotic thriller with pretensions to the sort of clever whodunit theatrics of Agatha Christie. But Murder on the Orient Express seems like child's play compared with this film's screenplay, by Elliott San, which is too clever by half.

Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) plays the central role of Holly, who in the story's opening arrives at the hotel suite for the assignation for which her younger lover has clearly prepared. He's left her sexy lingerie, a blindfold and handcuffs to put on, so it's obvious from the beginning that things are going to get twisted. Not quite as twisted as Stephen King's Gerald's Game, but twisted enough.

The surprises come fast and furious, beginning with the delayed arrival of the lover, Everett (Jake Abel, Love and Mercy), who's a bit late for the rendezvous because he's tied up … literally. His captor is apparently Russell (Titus Welliver, Amazon's Bosch), Holly's husband, who frees him and hisses, "Enjoy my wife!" (Shades of Sleuth!)

The ensuing encounter between the two lovers is clearly meant to be fraught with tension but instead comes across like farce. Each receives mysterious phone calls and text messages offering ominous instructions, and if they're not heeded, the lovers' family members are threatened with violence. Holly and Everett attempt to outwit each other as well as the nefarious figures menacing them, with both winding up drugged and unconscious at one point. To reveal more would be giving away too much, but suffice it to say that no one goes unscathed, including a hapless bellhop (Nathan Cooper) who seems to have wandered in from a '30s-era screwball comedy.

Confined mostly to a single setting, the awkwardly titled An Affair to Die For has the musty feel of the hoary stage thrillers that used to be ubiquitous on Broadway. But those generally made a modicum of sense when their mysteries were eventually revealed. Such is not the case here; the film seems so determinedly intent on keeping the audience guessing that the plot quickly segues from intriguing to annoying. In the course of the proceedings a finger is severed and a tongue is cut out (both offscreen), but the real violence perpetrated is on credibility, coherence and common sense.

The filmmaker, whose credits include such genre fare as Mirrors 2, Hellraiser: Revelations and Gallows Hill, manages to infuse the proceedings with visual stylishness despite the claustrophobic setting. And to their credit, the performers give the illusion that they're acting in a quality suspenser like Deathtrap or Dial M for Murder instead of this B-movie mediocrity, although Welliver is criminally wasted in his too brief role.

Production companies: Illogic Srl, Kobalt Entertainment, Martha Production, Roxbury
Distributors: Aqute Media, Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Claire Forlani, Jake Abel, Titus Welliver, Nathan Cooper, Melina Matthews
Director: Victor Garcia
Screenwriter: Elliott San
Producers: Fabio Massimo Cacciatori, Martha Capello, Andrea Cucchi, Miguel Angel Faura, Oliver Stoltz, Isaac Torras
Executive producers: Berry Meyerowitz, Jeff Sackman
Director of photography: Eloi Moli
Production designer: Maria Puig
Editor: Luis de la Madrid
Composer: Luca Balboni
Casting: Jordan Bass, Lauren Bass

83 minutes