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‘Deep Water’ doesn’t make much of a splash

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas star as a murderously married couple in Adrian Lyne’s latest

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas in "Deep Water."20th Century Studios

It’s been 20 years since “Unfaithful” (2002), the last movie Adrian Lyne directed, and almost 30 since any of his movies has been a big deal (“Indecent Proposal,” 1993). Other Lyne big deals have been “Flashdance” (1983) and “Fatal Attraction” (1987). Savor those unsavory titles. You want slick and sordid? Well, maybe you don’t. Either way, Lyne is your man.

Slick sordidness is definitely on offer in “Deep Water,” though a big deal it’s not. This is despite starring Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, and Tracy Letts, and being based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. The truly nasty surprise at the end is pure Highsmith, not least of all in being so emotionally acute. But getting there is a chore — and the specific giveaway that enables the surprise is sack-of-hammers dumb.


“Deep Water” starts streaming on Hulu March 18.

Ana de Armas in "Deep Water."Claire Folger/20th Century Studios

Vic Van Allen (Affleck) made a pile of money designing drone software. He’s taken a very early retirement, living in a gorgeous house in Louisiana, which he shares with his wife, Melinda (de Armas), and their irrepressible 6-year-old. The best thing in the movie is the interplay between Vic and Trixie, the little girl. It feels unforced and authentic as basically nothing else in “Deep Water” does.

Vic keeps himself busy riding his mountain bike and raising snails (that’s not a typo). Melinda keeps herself busy by cheating on Vic. She does this quite openly. In an implausibly masochistic way, he takes her infidelities in stride. “I don’t feel the need to dictate her choices,” Vic says. “I accept and love her as who she is.” You’d think he was being interviewed on “The View” instead of by a police detective.

Or maybe Vic doesn’t take Melinda’s infidelities in stride. It must be said that her lovers keep disappearing with an impressive degree of actuarial irregularity. Open marriage is one thing. Open-and-shut case is another.


For a stylish thriller to work, it needs to be at least a little bit stylish and offer an occasional thrill. “Deep Water” does neither. Lyne tries to enliven things visually with ‘80s flash: lots of reflections in glass, the brightness of sun-filled rooms, a general wetness (rain, swimming pools, vaporous atmospheres): like MTV-era music videos, only without the music and languorously edited.

Affleck and de Armas are attractive, capable performers. What a happy jolt she provided on the dance floor with 007 in “No Time to Die” last fall. But attractiveness and capability will take you only so far when you’re miscast. Melinda needs to be arch and remorseless. Here, de Armas comes across as willful and petty. As for Affleck, he seems weary and glum. Granted, Vic has a lot to be glum about, starting with his wife’s taste in men (including himself, of course). But glumness doesn’t make for very interesting viewing.

Ben Affleck in "Deep Water."20th Century Studios

It’s been a busy six months for Affleck. “The Last Duel” came out in October. He and Matt Damon collaborated with Nicole Holofcener on the script, with Affleck giving a risible performance as a libertine French nobleman. Two months later, he was the hero’s barkeep uncle in “The Tender Bar.” Affleck was marvelous: relaxed, expansive, casually charismatic.

Vic sure could benefit from those qualities. Instead, he could be the older, wealthier brother of another Affleck character, the husband in “Gone Girl” (2014). Both guys are stuck in a poisonous, murder-most-foul marriage. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel and script of that movie, is a great admirer of the Highsmith book. The similarity is such you’d think she was the casting director here.




Directed by Adrian Lyne. Written by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson; based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Tracy Letts. Streaming on Hulu. 115 minutes. R (nudity, language, steamy sexual situations)

Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.