Brian De Palma’s Passion is a return to his ‘80s erotic thriller heyday. However, the master of suspense appears to have lost his touch and Passion fails to hit the mark.
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace star as a pair of advertising executives, who are working together on the launch of a revolutionary mobile phone. Their professional relationship soon spills over into their personal lives, which eventually leads to murder. De Palma should be having a field day with this material (he wrote the script, adapted from the French film, Crime d’amour), but even the director’s trademark visual flourishes can’t help Passion rise to the occasion.
Quentin Tarantino recently waxed-lyrical that great film directors should retire before they lose their cinematic-mojo. This French-German production may help prove his point. When De Palma hits the mark it’s a near masterpiece (The Untouchables, Scarface) and when he gives into his own excess we get glorious misfires (Body Double, The Bonfire of The Vanities). However, Passion just feels like someone going through the motions because they can. Everything about the film feels tired. McAdams and Rapace are miscast and they have as much chemistry as soggy litmus paper. De Palma was always one for pushing the boundaries of the erotic thriller (to much critical derision), but Passion is incredibly tame. He’s either become conservative in his old age or he’s just out of touch – there’s more clunk than kink.
Things pick-up towards the end of the last act, when the twists and turns begin to kick-in, but even this isn’t enough. I don’t know if the ending makes sense, but at least you see that De Palma is quite energised. You could argue that a minor De Palma movie is better than no De Palma movie at all, but it looks like the years of fighting with the studios have finally taken their toll. Passion comes across as a film made by a director who just wants to make a hassle-free production, playing it safe in all areas to appease the money men. The problem with this is that the film is so generic, like a ‘90s cable thriller that’s aping De Palma’s style. Young audiences will find it boring, while the more mature filmgoer will find it like a flaccid copy of something they’ve already seen.
Passion should have been a glorious return to form for Brian De Palma, but sadly, it feels like the work of a once great director who has lost touch with the cinematic world.