By Kyle Anderson
Updated September 11, 2015 at 07:32 PM EDT
Credit: Dan McFadden
  • Movie

The erotic thriller is a lost art, almost certainly because the genre’s success rate is so historically pitiful. For every nasty masterpiece like Basic Instinct, there are dozens of bottom-feeders like Jade. These sexy, stabby flicks clogged cineplexes in the early ‘90s, but once the bloom was off the Joe Eszterhas rose, those types of films were relegated to Lifetime and robbed of their fundamental grit. But like most everything from the ‘90s, the style is back around, although it’s clearly still trying to shake off the basic cable neutering.

The Perfect Guy, a noble attempt at re-capturing the dark arousal of Fatal Attraction. It presents high-powered lobbyist Leah (Sanaa Lathan), who breaks up with commitment-averse boyfriend Dave (Morris Chestnut) and finds herself seduced by the impossibly chivalrous Carter (Michael Ealy). Carter is a dream who gets along with her friends, takes her to a cool underground reggae club, and buys her dad tickets to see his favorite baseball team. But things take a turn pretty quick, and after she witnesses Carter brutally assault a guy at a gas station, she breaks it off.

We’ve all seen enough of these movies to know where this is going. Carter gets obsessive and begins to use his knowledge of computers (he’s a network security expert) to stalk Leah, his actions escalated by her reconciliation with Dave and her regular trips to report his actions to a detective (Holt McCallany). The first half hour is sluggish, but once Carter unravels, the true home-invading craziness can begin. The Perfect Guy escalates quite nicely, leading to a satisfyingly white-knuckled finale. Lathan wavers deftly between strength and victimhood, and Ealy plays a perfectly smooth creep. But for all its third act nuttiness, The Perfect Guy really should have gone way crazier. For a movie that opens with its star in the shower and features a sex tape as a major plot point, it’s remarkably modest, with nary a stray body part or countercultural kink to titillate. When an erotic thriller leaves out the “erotic” part, all that’s left is a perfectly adequate domestic disturbance tale that should have given in to its more base desires. B–

The Perfect Guy

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 100 minutes
  • David Rosenthal