Respected seventies auteur Brian De Palma returns from the creative wilderness (his last feature was the 2007 Iraq War drama Redacted) with Passion (2012), a remake of 2010 French thriller Love Crime. Unfortunately, despite a sense of the director going back to basics, the end results are far from satisfying and fail to evoke memories of his older, superior work. Noomi Rapace is Isabelle, an up-and-coming Berlin advertising exec who is forever hemmed in by her controlling boss, Christine (Rachel McAdams). Their relationship is further frayed when Christine takes credit for one of her employee’s campaigns.
Undeterred, Isabelle decides to use her own resources to ensure her work is recognised, which leads to both a professional and personal betrayal. Soon, Christine begins formulating revenge of her own and the psychological battles commence, with disastrous results. Some have trumpeted Passion as a return to form for De Palma, and ostensibly, he appears to be making concessions for his older, loyal fanbase. Using past music collaborator Pino Donaggio, this is a low-key, stripped-down production compared to his overblown, bigger-budgeted Hollywood work from the nineties. However, these stylistic choices are also the film’s undoing, with De Palma’s aesthetics dated in a contemporary setting.
There’s a pointless split-screen sequence which begins to grate, rather than intrigue, and even the shock ending has been seen numerous times before (and used to much greater effect, previously). Despite the sensual-looking imagery used to market the film, there’s very little which could be considered risqué. In fact, apart from the constant Apple product placement, this looks like the kind of risible, flat-looking, 80s erotic Euro-thriller which used to show up at an ungodly hour on Channel 4. The two leads fall somewhat short, too. They seem miscast and, arguably, could have been put to better use by swapping their roles.
Rapace struggles to convince as the put-upon employee, and likewise, McAdams is too sweet to really give her icy, manipulative boss routine a believability it needs. British actor Paul Anderson is incredibly wooden as the male romantic go-between, hardly registering at all. Even De Palma’s camerawork doesn’t have the same fluidity as before, lacking that verve and energy, and coming across as strangely inert and unfocused. While many of the director’s fellow ‘movie brats’ continue to enjoy success, Passion’s deadening viewing experience proves that not all have moved and evolved with the times.
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