• by Wes Singleton

Fifty Shades Darker, D

Rated R, 115 minutes

The worst form of punishment may be suffering through the dreadfully dull, soapy new sequel "Fifty Shades Darker," the follow-up to the huge box-office hit "Fifty Shades of Grey," both based on E.L. James series of smutty, low-grade novels that explores a rich man's obsession with S&M. Other than some scattered, titallating and well-choreographed sex scenes, "Fifty Shades Darker" still plays like a mildly kinky version of "The Young and the Restless."

When a wounded Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tries to entice a cautious Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian's past start to circle the couple, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.

Directed by James Foley and written by Niall Leonard, based on James' novel, "Fifty Shades Darker" is essentially a slick, bland soap opera with a little S&M thrown in. With awful dialogue and third-rate acting, "Darker" seems fashioned solely around those sex scenes, with everything in between a crashing bore. If you take it for what it is: a high-brow fantasy, those scenes carry the movie, but for a film series about kink and S&M, it still all seems rather tame, and mostly an afterthought.

The sluggish plotting and questionable character motivations - is she or isn't into the rough stuff - is really just a lame excuse to get this handsome pair together and even a worse excuse for a movie about sex. Dornan and Johnson are an exceedingly bland, boring couple, who must endure mentally unstable exes and plane crashes all the while sexually experimenting behind close doors. We even learn a little of Christian's backstory as we discover who first introduced him to all the kink, a woefully miscast Oscar-winner Kim Basinger.

"Fifty Shades Darker" proves you can make a boring movie about sexual experimentation and people will still buy tickets to see it. Outside of the brief sex scenes, it's a whipping to sit through.

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