The next time someone chronicles the great film noir femme fatales - Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity," Jane Greer in "Out of the Past," Kathleen Turner in "Body Heat" - it will be incomplete without Linda Fiorentino in "The Last Seduction."

In fact, Fiorentino makes those babes seem like innocents, as she creates the ultimate cinematic maneater in this terrific mystery-thriller that also works as a very dark comedy."The Last Seduction" casts Fiorentino as Bridgit Gregory, a Manhattan telemarketing executive in New York City, and we get a hint of her character's true nature in the initial scenes, as she chops away at the egos of her male employees.

Meanwhile, her husband Clay (Bill Pullman), a medical student, is dealing drugs, which he sees as an easy way to make big money. But when he brings home a bankroll and gets into an argument with his wife, he makes the mistake of slapping her. One suspects Bridget wouldn't take a verbal slight too well - but this apparently pushes her over the edge.

Bridget steals Clay's money and heads upstate, pausing in the small town of Beston, near Buffalo. She stops only to collect her thoughts and phone her lawyer Frank Griffith (J.T. Walsh) while she plots her next move. Should she divorce her husband - or kill him? Ah, decisions, decisions.

Frank gets the picture, of course, and in the process, he drops the film's best line: "Anyone check you for a heartbeat lately?"

While Bridget is pondering her future in a local bar, she is hit on by a hapless and hopelessly naive local resident, Mike Swale (Peter Berg), who hasn't the slightest notion what he's letting himself in for. At first Bridget tells him to get lost. But then she decides to use Mike for her own purposes. What she doesn't know is that Mike has a secret of his own.

Director John Dahl is right at home in this genre, and while he doesn't exactly reinvent it, he certainly knows how to give it a high-voltage jolt. Dahl's first movie, "Kill Me Again" (with Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) was entertaining and showed great promise. And he really delivered the goods with "Red Rock West," which pitted Nicolas Cage against Dennis Hopper.

With "The Last Seduction," he's working with a script (by first-timer Steve Barancik) that isn't quite as tight as "Red Rock West" (especially in the denouement). But Dahl knows how to deliver a pull-out-the-stops thriller like no one else in modern movies, and this is a wild one.

But the real kicker is his brilliant casting of Fiorentino, who seems born to play this character. Just as Bridget runs over the men in her life, Fiorentino takes control of this movie and just goes her own way at full-throttle. It's a star-making role, and she deserves that Oscar nomination that we now know she won't get - just because this low budget, art-house distributed picture played for a few weeks on HBO earlier this year.

"The Last Seduction" is rated R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity, vulgarity and drugs.