PLOT: An ambitious businesswoman (Noomi Rapace) has an idea stolen by her ruthless boss (Rachel McAdams). The two become embroiled in a high-stakes game of one up-man-ship, that eventually turns murderous
REVIEW: A sexually charged thriller, PASSION, to hear it described- seems like ideal material for Brian De Palma. And sure enough, PASSION feels like a true De Palma-film, circa 1982. I love his films from that era, with DRESSED TO KILL, BLOW OUT, and BODY DOUBLE all being superior thrillers, but when you make a drama in that mold thirty years later, it can't help but feel terribly dated.
And such is the problem with PASSION. It truly feels like a film from a bygone era, and while that's not always bad, it has the unfortunate result of making PASSION unfold like an unintentional comedy. Think the deliberately cheesy FEMME FATALE, only less sophisticated and sexy. Yes- less sexy, despite the promise of a sexually charged relationship between Rapace and McAdams. Such a thing never materializes, although this territory is flirted with a tad through the relationship between Rapace and her own amorous assistant, played by Karoline Herfurth. But it's all very tame, and to quote Tom Hanks in BACHELOR PARTY, “I usually don't like my filth this clean.”
But really, PASSION has a lot more problems other than being old-fashioned and unsexy. For one thing, the casting is all wrong. Rachel McAdams is delicious in the part, and has never looked better, but is simply too young to be playing this cold-blooded bitch of a boss. Noomi Rapace is similarly miscast as the naive apprentice. This should have been like a murderous take on WORKING GIRL, but it's just tepid and wrong-headed. Apparently, the French film it's based on (CRIME D'AMOUR- which I haven't seen), adheres a little closer to that idea.
The film is also absolutely crippled by the hilariously bad score by former De Palma regular Pino Donaggio, which sounds like it was lifted out of an episode of RED SHOE DIARIES. The audience actually started to giggle whenever it started up. That said, the film is bad enough that even the best score ever recorded wouldn't necessarily help it.
It could be, however, that I'm overlooking the camp value of PASSION, as one of my TIFF roommates has told me that he thought the film worked brilliantly on that level. Fair enough, and sure- it might be good for some youtube-clips, but I doubt that was De Palma's intent. It's tacky, and garishly overblown. That vibe worked well in the eighties (it was totally suited to an era that in itself was gaudy), but here it's just a mess and hopelessly outdated.