Brian De Palma. He’s a director not afraid to take risks and have fun with material that can, more likely than not, twist and turn from start to finish. The man has a bare-faced cheek that few others can rival, but when his style matches some great substance his confidence is well-deserved. He has created some of the finest, albeit not too original, thrillers of the past few decades. Sadly, he appears to be well beyond his prime and Passion is, despite some strong competition, one of his worst outings.
Rachel McAdams plays Christine, a canny young woman who works hard and plays hard while always aiming for the finer things in life. When she praises her employee, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), for her latest work and then takes all the credit for it when questioned about it by someone higher up the food chain it’s not long until something bad is going to happen. The relationship between Christine and Isabelle sours, understandably, and the two start doing whatever they can to score points off each other with things quickly going from bad to worse.
It’s really difficult to work up enthusiasm for a review of this movie when De Palma seems to have barely opened his eyes long enough to film the thing. There are one or, to be generous, maybe two moments that remind you of how stylish the man can be, but everything else is almost inexcusably bad. It’s like a low-budget soap opera that throws in some nudity and kinky moments in a desperate grab for viewing figures.
Rachel McAdams is someone I have always liked onscreen, until now. This movie makes her unlikeable. It’s not just her character being so bad, the fact is that she’s given poor material throughout and none of the script plays to her strengths. The fact that she STILL manages to come out of this as one of the better aspects of the film is testament to her charm. Noomi Rapace, on the other hand, must spend her every waking moment thanking her lucky stars for landing the role of Lisbeth Salander a few years ago. Because I can’t think of any other scenario in which such a cold, wooden, untalented actress would have her career. I’ve enjoyed her on occasion, but there hasn’t been a movie role given to her in the past couple of years that couldn’t have been handed to a hundred better actresses. Admit it. Go on, admit it. As for the rest of the cast, it’s hard to tell just how bad Karoline Herfurth, Paul Anderson, Rainer Block et al really are when they’re stuck with such poor material to work with. I suspect that they’re not the best bunch, but they may not be as bad as the movie makes out either.
I really wanted to enjoy Passion. I’d not watched a De Palma movie since Femme Fatale but, despite how downright cheeky it was, I really enjoyed that one and hoped that I could continue being in the minority – praising the man as someone who still obviously had plenty of talent to use on admittedly lightweight fare. Unfortunately, Passion may stand as an unworthy footnote to a fantastic career.
Passion is released on shiny disc form here in the UK on August 12th.
DIRECTOR: BRIAN DE PALMA
WRITER: BRIAN DE PALMA, NATALIE PALMER, BASED ON THE SCREENPLAY “CRIME D’AMOUR” BY NATALIE PALMER AND ALAIN CORNEAU
STARS: RACHEL MCADAMS, NOOMI RAPACE, KAROLINE HERFURTH, PAUL ANDERSON, RAINER BLOCK, BENJAMIN SADLER
RUNTIME: 105 MINS APPROX