Review: Passion / Cert: 15 / Director: Brian De Palma / Screenplay: Brian De Palma, Natalie Carter / Starring: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth / Release Date: Out Now
Whilst one can understand the haste for the English language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the rush for a remake of Alain Corneau’s final film Crime d’amour (2010) is somewhat less self-evident. However, the successor to 2007’s Redacted, Passion concludes a six year lay-off between films for De Palma, and herein lies the possible explanation for his alacrity: a fevered excitement to tell his own version of a tangled web of conflict between two women whose professional relationship disintegrates into an unruly and hateful passion. Alas, De Palma’s latest outing is closer to the underwhelming lows of The Black Dahlia than the heights of his earlier work.
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace seem to struggle with an uninspired script, and initially you can't help wondering whether they were miscast. By the film's conclusion, though, one is forced to conclude that their performances are contaminated by De Palma’s obsession with and reliance on stylistic flourishes; the characterisation and subtext hindered by so much superficial pandering. This is compounded by the sexualized approach De Palma takes in developing his wicked leading lady played by McAdams; by now a tired trick to get across the message that a character is dark, corrupt and should not to be trusted.
To his credit De Palma creates a definitive American take on Corneau’s crime drama, and he masterfully infuses it with a touch of classic film noir light and shadow. In the film's fevered conclusion, De Palma looks over his shoulder to the past and channels Hitchcock and Hermann in a way that reminds you of classic American cinema's enduring charm and spirit.
Yet as Passion unfolds there's a laziness or lack of self-criticism present. Even in the visually compelling moments, he miscues the plot with an ineffective and misguided attempt to blur the boundaries between reality and dreams that comes across as a cheap and empty parlour trick.
Whilst Passion makes for entertaining viewing, it's a film that struggle to make an impression that lasts beyond the end credits. It is fated to fall between those cracks in the recesses of the mind, or if you prefer sit dutifully behind Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Scarface, Carlito’s Way and Carrie, the classics of the De Palma collection.