American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Whoopi Goldberg has a scene in "Fatal Beauty" that is like a blow to the heart, it is so powerful. She plays a narcotics detective, a tough woman who makes friends with the bodyguard of a drug smuggler. And in a quiet moment together the character explains why she is so opposed to drugs by revealing a secret out of her past.
That this moment got into the film at all is a small miracle, because "Fatal Beauty" is a police action thriller that seldom slows down for personal revelations. But the scene is an eye-opener, an emotionally charged moment that awakens memories of Goldberg in "The Color Purple," a reminder that she is a good actress and not simply the female Chuck Norris.
Since "The Color Purple," Hollywood has given Goldberg a lot of work: three starring roles in a row. But it hasn't given her a chance to really challenge herself. She's always seen as the woman from Planet X, the funny-looking heroine with the weird hair and the four-letter words. "Fatal Beauty" is first and foremost an action movie - one with a lot of not-accidental parallels to the "Beverly Hills Cop" pictures - but it also is Goldberg's best work since "The Color Purple."
She plays Rita Rizzoli (the Italian name is much remarked upon but never explained), a tough street detective who dresses in the standard issue Goldberg uniform: jeans and baggy sweatshirts. She's on the trail of a drug dealer who has put a particularly potent form of cocaine on the street, a form called "Fatal Beauty" that causes instant death. Several people die from the drug during the movie although, of course, no general public warning is issued because that would allow reality to intrude on Goldberg's private vendetta.