Brian De Palma—that dirty old auteur—slides back into erotic-thriller mode with Passion, which isn't really that erotic or thrilling.
A remake of the 2010 French film Crime d'amour, the movie stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace—their faces so porcelain and blemish-free it looks like they dipped them in buttermilk before every scene—as women in a Berlin ad agency, engaging in twisted office warfare. McAdams is the boss lady, winning over Rapace's subordinate with gifts, sob stories and the odd smooch. Since they share a suave, sheisty lover (Paul Anderson), one can only guess how intense this girlfight is going to get—in both the boardroom and the bedroom.
One of these characters will spend a chunk of the movie disoriented and confused, which sums up how most viewers will feel watching this. Even though De Palma continues to delve into such familiar tropes as perception, obsession and how we record ourselves (with most of the characters viewing things on laptops and smartphones, De Palma seems to be quite intrigued with today's technological doohickeys), Passion is another one of De Palma's maddening exercises in stylish-yet-vacuous suspense that gets off on its own brazen preposterousness. As always, De Palma does this with a straight face, making it difficult to even enjoy the tawdry, trashy, over-the-top film noir it's so dying to be.
At 72, De Palma is still an impressive craftsman. He pulls out his bag of tricks (Steadicam long takes, split-screen sequences) in order to come up with bravura moments that'll arouse the De Palma fanatics (surely a dwindling, aging lot). Unfortunately, this makes watching Passion all the more infuriating. As much as he beautifies this mess—the movie's so sleek, you'll worry that the cast is gonna slip off the damn screen—it's still a mess.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Young and restless."