Poor Ben Affleck. Last year he was laughed out of cinemas for his part in The Last Duel, and his solid performance in The Tender Bar was largely ignored by awards voters. This year saw The Batman, a film he was originally meant to direct and star in, become a huge success with someone else in both the cowl and the director’s seat. This week things get a little worse with the release of Deep Water, a throwback to 90s erotic thrillers from Adrian Lyne, the director of Fatal Attraction.
Affleck plays Vic Van Allen, a husband and father who lives in luxury having made a fortune designing weapons tech. He is unhappily married to Melinda (Ana De Armas), who resents his lack of passion and flaunts her various lovers in front of him. Vic seems to tolerate her behaviour to avoid a divorce, but when her lovers start turning up dead, both Melinda and a local writer (Tracy Letts) begin to suspect him of murder.
Based on the book by Patricia Highsmith, almost nothing works in a film that’s even devoid of eroticism. The first half holds some mystery but it soon becomes a tale of two people who don’t seem to like each other, yet continue to live in the same house.
Whether or not this feels realistic depends on your personal situation, but contempt is rarely sexy. The sex scenes involve brief shots of de Almas writhing in a car with other men, while one horrifying sequence sees Affleck staring blankly at the object of his obsession, with camerawork so shaky it might cause travel sickness.
The plot goes nowhere fast, and the performances fail to kill the time. While de Armas has a lot of shouty passion, Melinda is a poorly written sketch of an angry wife, who seems to have a conveyor belt of men from her past who she replaces as quickly as they are dispatched. As for Affleck, he just looks depressed. No, really, that’s the basis of a lot of his performance – looking sad by the pool, looking unhappy next to his friends, wearing a glum expression as he reconciles with Melinda. The only time he seems to smile is looking at his snail farm (again, not the most erotic of visuals). His listless demeanour sucks the life out of what is meant to be a thriller. Anyone looking for a 2022 update of the Sad Ben Affleck meme will find a hard drive’s worth of material here.
Deep Water is on Prime Video from 18th March.