** out of four
Yes, the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey is upon us and, while it is still just soft-core porn with a daytime soap opera storyline, Fifty Shades Darker is actually a better film than its predecessor. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a good movie, but it's not the unintentional laugh riot trainwreck that is Fifty Shades of Grey.
Against her better judgment, but for the reason to have a sequel, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) gets back together with billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who is deep into sadomasochism. To make matters more complicated, we get a mysterious young woman from Grey's past (Bella Heathcote), a mysterious older woman from Grey's past (Kim Basinger), and Steele's evil new male boss (Eric Johnson). So, there is face slapping, a drink tossed in someone's face, and rampant nudity and sex scenes. This really is goofy stuff, and the character's and their decisions don't make much sense. Steele seems like a down to earth girl and is totally adamant with Grey that she wants no more to do with his sadomasochistic tendencies, yet she inexplicably becomes fascinated with the whips and chains in his torture room.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have more on-screen chemistry here than the first time around, but their interaction is still fairly bland. I feel that it's director James Foley, a filmmaker of merit (At Close Range, Glengarry Glen Ross), that makes this movie somewhat watchable. Granted, he's fighting a losing battle with this trashy material from E. L. James' series of books.