Fifty Shades Darker: Film Review
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora
Director: James Foley
To be fair, no-one is expecting cinematic mastery of the celluloid domain with the erotic flick Fifty Shades Darker.
The adaptation of the first Fifty Shades of Grey mummy porn movie wasn't exactly thrilling and rendered the dangerous world of BDSM and talk thereof rather dull and flaccid.
But to say the sequel, which centres on a wounded Christian Grey determined to get Anastasia Steele back in his life, has a bit more life and a lot more kinky fuckery (to quote Ana) is to damn it with feint praise.
Sure, the terrible dialogue is ever-present, every touch leads to near orgasm and the leering gaze of the camera lingers a little too often on Dakota Johnson's shapelier assets. There are obligatory moments of Jamie Dornan sans shirt and giving that slightly constipated and pained squirrel look that he did in the first; but let's face it, that's what most of the audience coming to this weak 80s softcore rip-off are looking for.
From lingering looks, talk of nipple clamps, romps to endless changing soundtracks, and discussions of renegotiating terms, the second film is very much about The Domestication of Christian Grey, where he has to consider serious issues like trust and allowing a girl to move in, rather than deciding which blindfold and which sub to master that night.
And yet, around the edges of this creaky wannabe psychological push and pull, there are elements of a psycho-sexual thriller lurking and failing to garner enough light.
However, the tension that's supposed to be built with hints of Grey's dangerous past teased out are laughably dispatched in a piecemeal fashion that's irritating.
Two sequences that threaten danger to our protagonist are over and resolved within moments, robbing the film of any kind of drama as the duo weave their way through the sheen of masquerade balls and flirting over the coring of a capsicum. A sub-plot about Ana working for a publisher with a seedy boss feels strongly like set-up, but it's all so summarily dismissed that the episodic nature of the film fails to fire.
Dornan's confined to the sidelines a little more this time around, going from a more playful Grey to a Horny looking Kato at the ball. There's a softer edge to him in the latest, which renders the stalking message and one-spanking-away-from-an-injunction Christian Grey a little more palatable in the second film.
Ultimately, a lot of Fifty Shades Darker lurches from one ludicrous moment to another, saddled with some
laugh out loud dialogue (none of it intentional), and there's no disputing the fact it's dull in parts. And there's still a shocking disparity over the amount of male / female nudity within.
Yet, bizarrely, there's also a clarity of vision here, with the sex ramped up as that's clearly what the audience wants. First time around, all the discussion of contracts and sexual fantasies robbed the film of the lusty edge - here, it's all on, with the between the sheets action being left to do the talking. There's no denying that Foley delivers it all in a manner which will titillate parts of the audience and leave them breathless as this saga of the love affair plays out.
But there's no hint of suggestion, no delicious tease of sexiness and while there's one Johnson that more than rises to the occasion this time around, giving her Ana a little more than the one dimensions set down on the page, Fifty Shades Darker remains still a damp cinematic squib.