Passion

***

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.00 out of 5)
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“There’s no backstabbing here… it’s just business.”

Passion

The H-Bomb: The 2000’s, for the most part, have not been kind to Brian De Palma, the high style auteur of such modern classics as Carrie, Scarface, and Dressed to Kill. Yes, in 2002 he did bring us Femme Fatale, which is a personal favorite, but he was also responsible for the super dumb Mission to Mars, the wretched Iraq War film, Redacted, and the astonishingly awful train wreck, The Black Dahlia, which I’ve ranted on in the past..

It goes without saying that for the last decade or so, De Palma has been way off his game. I would even go so far as to say he’s lost a step, except his films have always been hit or miss with me. So, after taking a six year hiatus, no doubt to air out the stench caused by the double stuffed shit-bomb that was The Black Dahlia and Redacted, the director returns to his roots with Passion, a relatively low key, Hitchcockian thriller, the kind of which defined his early career. Is De Palma back in fighting form, or should he have just stayed in retirement? We shall see…

A remake of a 2010 French film, Crime d’amour, Passion tells the story of conniving advertising executive, Christine (Rachel McAdams), and her seemingly naive subordinate, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). Both women are incredibly ambitious, Christine ruthlessly so, which is made apparent when she takes all the credit for a brilliant ad campaign idea that Isabelle concocted. Isabelle, understandably, is completely livid, even though Christine assures her that it’s not backstabbing, it’s just business.

But, of course, it is backstabbing, and Isabelle isn’t about to forget it. This sets the stage for a series of double crosses and betrayals between the two. Eventually, Christine’s oily, womanizing boyfriend, Dirk (Paul Anderson), and Isabelle’s all-too-dedicated assistant, Dani (Karoline Herfurth), get caught up in the back and forth as the rivalry escalates to the point where it’s no longer about business, it’s bitterly personal. I would discuss the plot in more detail, but in this case, saying any more would be saying too much, so I won’t.

While Passion is not among De Palma’s best efforts, it’s certainly not among his very worst, either. For me, it ranks somewhere in the upper-middle of his body of work. It’s a slick, stylish exercise that’s fairly entertaining, but is also, like many of De Palma’s Hitchcock knock-offs, very thin on substance, and overall, just isn’t particularly memorable.

The first two thirds of the film are carried by the intriguing-yet-uneasy chemistry between McAdams and Rapace. There’s definitely some love/hate tension in the air, with some less-than-subtle lesbian overtones, but the hate ultimately wins out, and for a while, the constant mind games and dirty tricks made for a fiendishly fun watch. I was truly invested and curious as to how all the cat-and-mouse antics would ultimately play out. Then, at the end of act two, the movie abruptly switches gears and turns into a whodunit. A whodunit that’s as illogical as it is predictable. It doesn’t ruin the film, per se, but I would have much preferred to see it take a different path, instead of turning into some half-assed Giallo.

Still, De Palma does keep it reasonably enjoyable, with some truly striking camera work and lighting by cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine, which become progressively more stylized as the story turns increasingly melodramatic. De Palma certainly hasn’t lost any of his visual luster, I’ll give him that. As for the performances, I’d say McAdams is the one to write home about. She inhabits this backstabbing bitch on wheels so flawlessly, that you’ll find yourself wanting desperately to see her get her comeuppance, she is that detestable.

Less convincing is Rapace as the meeker of the two. She isn’t bad by any means, and I’m sure this has everything to do with my having seen her in the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, but I just couldn’t quite buy her as meek, or as anyone who would take shit off of someone like McAdams. She does play crazy quite well, though, when her character is finally pushed to her breaking point. She gets scary dangerous, and that’s where she really shines.

The mostly impressive lead performances aside, Passion is merely a minor score for De Palma. Like I said, it stands head-and-shoulders above his last couple of outings, it’s visually gorgeous and fascinating to a point, but there just simply isn’t a whole hell of a lot to it. Casual moviegoers will probably be put off by the first two thirds of the film, which are rather European in its minimalism and its pacing, whereas die hard De Palma fans will love it when he goes crazy with his signature camera tricks in the final act, and will probably rate this higher. For me, though, Passion is just all right. I was hoping for something more than all right, as this is Brian freakin’ De Palma we’re talking about here, but all right was all I got. Perhaps I should simply be happy with that, because judging from his more recent track record, it could have been far, far worse.


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