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Let's get one thing straight: Brian De Palma's latest film, Passion, is trashy and completely unbecoming of the talent involved. Keeping that in mind, I kind of enjoyed watching this purposely pulpy thriller, which uses Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as pawns in a game of love and deception. McAdams climbs the career ladder as the manipulative Christine Stanford, a female advertising exec in a man's world. Rapace is up-and-coming ad designer Isabelle James, who draws Christine's admiration and ire when she creates a highly effective campaign for designer jeans. Those looking for Dressed to Kill round two will be disappointed, as Passion is less accomplished and far more ludicrously plotted than that ode to Alfred Hitchcock. De Palma has been unpredictable as a director for over a decade, but Passion proves his talented eye for visuals and suspense is still on display in his lesser works.
McAdams smokes cigarettes and chews scenery as She Wolf Christine. It's never clear when (if ever) Christine is being genuine, and she uses those around her to satisfy her every whim. That includes Isabelle, who Christine tasks with a difficult campaign, propositions for sex, and fails to acknowledge when the firm's higher-ups praise the new ads. "There's no backstabbing here," Christine promises. Utter bullshit. Isabelle then takes matters into her own hands and diverts attention away from Christine during a meeting, causing Christine's boss to renege on a promotion offer. Passion then unspools like an extended catfight, complete with out-of-nowhere twists and duplicitous characters.
De Palma, whose best works include Carrie and Scarface, has never been a subtle director, and has steered clear of mainstream films in the last couple of years. It is nice to see De Palma back behind the camera for something entertaining, I just wish the material had been stronger. De Palma wrote the script with Natalie Carter, and Passion is an English-language remake of French film Love Crime. The backstabbing and white lies are plenty entertaining, but large chunks of the narrative don't make much sense. As Passion plowed forward, I found myself asking what the f**k was going on. The climax tips the balance of power toward Isabelle, but some of the late-game revelations aren't exactly grounded in logic.
Christine requires McAdams to play against type, which is a nice change of pace for the actress, who is quite good as the bad girl. One extended string of possible lies involves a deceased family member, and McAdams clearly has fun toying with Isabelle's head. Rapace gives a good performance, too, and emotionally grounds the film. Isabelle is truly gutted by Christine's actions, and Rapace displays every ounce of betrayal on her face. De Palma's staging and filming angles are interesting, and the director lenses a number of his signature off-kilter shots, which include the use of unusual focus and unnatural close-ups. Passion is passable, tawdry entertaining but nothing more. The story is too illogical to buy into, but McAdams and Rapace are attractive leads.
The 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is quite thick and filmic. There's a nice layer of grain that the transfer handles well. Fine object detail is impressive, and close-ups of the lead actresses reveal intimate facial details. Contrast is purposely high and colors are boldly saturated. The bright reds of Christine's lipstick sear the screen, and the cold greys of the women's office are stark and crisp. I noticed no issues with banding or jagged edges.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is capably effective, and it appropriately mixes the catty dialogue with ambient effects and the noir-esque score. The action is often front-loaded but the surrounds are put to good use during a scene of pumping music and during a subwoofer-assisted accident. An English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is also included, as are English subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a bright red Blu-ray case. Extras include Interviews with Brian De Palma, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace (7:02/HD) and the film's Theatrical Trailer (1:51/HD).
Entertaining but forgettable, Passion is certainly not one of director Brian De Palma's better efforts. Leads Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace elevate the questionable material with good performances, but those looking for a repeat of Dressed to Kill will be disappointed. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.