“Illicit” begins, believe it or not, with a title card offering the dictionary definition of its title, which may or may not speak volumes about just how slow on the uptake filmmaker Corey Grant assumed his potential audience would be. The movie itself could be defined as the latest and least in a long line of “Fatal Attraction” knockoffs, if only it didn’t devolve into something much sillier during its final 20 minutes. Indeed, even during the first 99 minutes, the overstated melodrama frequently veers close to self-parody as the predominantly African-American cast is called upon to histrionically underline and italicize the introduction of every major plot point.
On the other hand, there is one thing that distinguishes “Illicit” from most other “Fatal Attraction” wannabes: This particular tale of ill-considered adultery offers equal opportunities for unfaithful spouses. Sasha Curtis (Shireen Crutchfield), a beautiful former model, is by turns neglected and dominated by Guy (David Ramsey), her control-freakish husband, making her all too susceptible to the seductive blandishments of Lance (McKinley Freeman), a handsome photographer who offers to help her produce a portfolio to revive the career she set aside for marriage and motherhood. Meanwhile, Guy, a workaholic parole officer, is led down the primrose path by Faren (Michele Weaver), a sexy parolee who spent time behind bars for inflicting grievous bodily harm on her abusive boyfriend, and now seeks protection from an inconvenient stalker. Not at all surprisingly, nothing good comes from any of this.
Directing from a script he co-wrote with Lanett Tachel — who shamelessly sashays through her clichéd role as Sasha’s sassy and curvy BFF — Grant doesn’t do himself any favors by needlessly protracting scenes that need far more snap to be at all effective. A prime example: It takes so long for Sasha to realize that she’s expected to serve as dessert at a lunch party, she winds up seeming not so much innocently naïve as laughably dense.
“Illicit” is too tepid to qualify as an erotic thriller, or even a guilty pleasure, and the performances range from over the top to tiresomely obvious. To be fair, however, it should be noted that there is at least one genuinely surprisingly twist at the very end. (Two of them, actually, when you consider how stories like this usually wind up.) And there’s no denying that Dean Cain gets a few good laughs by enthusiastically conveying unrepentant sleaziness as a sexual buccaneer for whom mate-swapping is a way of life. Better still, his color commentary is priceless. As the ludicrous coincidences and awkward confrontations accumulate to the point of overkill at a public gathering during the film’s climax, Cain’s character casually turns to his companion and drolly opines: “You cannot make this shit up. I am thoroughly enjoying myself.” Well, that makes one of us.