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'Deadly Illusions' review: Don't be fooled

Kristin Davis is the midlife-criss Charlotte in an erotic thriller that is mostly anything but.

Greer Grammer as Grace and Kristin Davis as Mary in "Deadly Illusions."
(Image: © Voltage Pictures)

Our Verdict

Superficially sexy and too senseless to be a real thriller, "Deadly Illusions" is a meandering mess of a Netflix Top 10 flick.

For

  • 🔪 A decent cast in Davis, Mulroney and Grammer.
  • 🔪 Nicely shot.

Against

  • 🖤 Nonexistent character development.
  • 🖤 The plot never figured out what it wanted to be.
  • 🖤 Not really erotic or thrilling.

The year 1992 was a good one for erotic thrillers. It brought us Basic Instinct as well as the first of the Poison Ivy films. Nearly 30 years later, Deadly Illusions — another of the "Where did that come from?" entries into the Netflix Top 10 — cribs from both but doesn't get remotely close to being anywhere near as good as either. (Or close to the phenomenon that was 365 DNI.)

Such is life on the Netflix charts.

That's not to say there's nothing to see in Deadly Illusions. Because a film whose Netflix thumbnail is nothing but a topless Greer Grammer and in the Netflix Top 10 can't possibly be making itself out to be something other than what it is, right?

Here's the gist of Deadly Illusions: Mary Morrison (Sex and the City's Kristin Davis) is a successful author with a series of books to her name. But she's been out of the writing game for a little while now, satisfied with taking care of her kids and hanging in her exquisite home — the sort of place you'd expect to find a successful author. Her husband, Tom (Dermot Mulroney) seems decent enough (insofar as you're not immediately suspicions just on principle). But it turns out he somehow blew a bunch of their money on some sort of bad financial deal. Between that and Mary's publisher trying to throw a couple million dollars at her to get back on the horse, it's time to saddle up.

But writing is hard. It means throwing yourself into your work as an artiste and not treating it like a 9-to-5 job that so many other writers manage to do. So Mary reluctantly hits up a nanny service for help. She's plenty impressed by the on-premises facility, but not so much with the initial batch of 20-somethings that show up for interviews.

MORE: Who stars in Deadly Illusions

The "Deadly Illusions" thumbnail from Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Enter Grace (Greer Grammer). She's perfect. Yes, a little too perfect. She's young and beautiful and smart and polite and inquisitive enough to be interesting but not so much that don't ever want to hear her speak. She's a fan of books, which endears her to Mary. And she's great with her initial, impromptu meeting with the kids.

This movie being called "Deadly Illusions," however, we know to be on the lookout for the young, hot nanny. She's going to seduce someone, right?

This is where we sort of get the one real twist, because it's actually more a case of Mary seducing Grace than the other way around. The kids want to go swimming, and Mary loans Grace a one-piece that apparently was last seen on some sort of Playboy photo spread and requires a few hours with a decent esthetician before you'd ever think about wearing it. Somehow, Grace the Prude wears it just fine.

Next is the impromptu lingerie shopping trip because Mary finds Grace's underthings to be a little too boring. That's not at all inappropriate, right? Grace seems a little uncomfortable but moves Mary's hand to her breast to make sure Mary "won't forget." Game on, then. The only question is what the game is, and who's on which side.

Later we find Mary writing a little (she does everything longhand) while topless at her pool. She strips off her bottoms and hops in the water and invites Grace to put on the bikini that's now laying on the deck. Nothing weird there, either, right? (To say nothing about hygiene.)

The two start to have what, save for the whole employer/employee thing, would be seen as a perfectly normal affair. Mary confesses to her best friend, Eliane (Shanola Hampton), that she's never had a thing for another woman before. And Mary actually is determined to stop things, even though she keeps going back for more — and even though the hot nanny action has helped to break through the writer's block she'd been struggling with.

Here's where the movie really starts to go off the rails. Mary starts having hot dreams about her and Grace, as well as nightmares about Grace and Tom. Only it's hard to tell what's real, and what's not. There's just enough truth left behind — flower petals in the bath scene, for instance — for Mary to not be sure whether she actually just got pleasured by Grace, or whether she just imagined it while zoning out in the tub.

Eliane starts to suspect that Grace is up to no good, however, and Mary finally starts to do a little digging. That leads her to a cheap apartment a couple hours away, where she meets Mary's aunt, and comes away with a tabloid magazine that promises to shed a little light on who Grace actually is.

What none of this helps explain is why Grace is as broken as she is — there's the briefest of bits about being one of many children to abusive parents — and why she went to such lengths to get into the Morrison family as she did, and in the manner in which she did it. (It also doesn't explain where the hell the kids are for the back half of the movie, but it's probably best they didn't see what was going on anyway.)

We also don't get the "deadly" part of Deadly Illusions until three-quarters of the way in, either — and even then it's a bare minimum of murder, telegraphed far in advance. So now we're left with sex scenes that are on the shy side of PG-13 (save for Mulroney's shower butt, the nudity is really kept to just a single nipple, and everything else is decidedly soft-core), and a single act of carnage with only a whiff of possibility that someone might actually get away with murder and frame someone else in the process.

In the end of this 2-hour ordeal, the only illusion here is how Deadly Illusions got so high on the Netflix U.S. chart in the first place.

Maybe it was that topless thumbnail.