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With a few twists too many, ‘Passion’ makes little sense

Date: 11/7/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

This week, the movie review column features the return of a veteran filmmaker to familiar territory.


Director Brian De Palma is part of a generation of filmmakers who contemporary audiences may not think too much about despite their body of work.

De Palma is not unlike his colleagues William Freidkin and John Landis, both of whom are responsible for influential films and huge hits, but have not been very active in the past decade.

As a refresher, let me remind you that De Palma is the man who brought audiences, “Carrie,” “Dressed to Kill,” “Scarface,” “The Untouchables,” “Body Double” and the first “Mission Impossible” film with Tom Cruise.

His films have been criticized for his working within the themes and style of Alfred Hitchcock and for their violence against women. He is considered to be a great stylist by many film fans with his use of odd camera angles and lighting.

When I received the Blu-Ray of “Passion” to review I realized I had no idea what was the last film the director had made – it was “Redacted” in 2007 – and I was eager to see it as I knew nothing about it.

“Passion” stars Rachel McAdams in a role that is new to her. She plays Christine, the head of the Germany-based office of an international advertising agency. She is in the running for worst boss ever as she uses sexual advances and then humiliation to throw people off guard, making them easier to manipulate.

Her latest target or conquest or partner – depending upon her mood – is the serious-minded Isabelle, who has created a campaign for a cell phone manufacturer. As played by Noomi Rapace, she is basically a decent person but work-a-holic and doesn’t quite understand why Christine, who confesses she loves her took credit for her work to advance herself within the company.

That action sets the somewhat convoluted plot in motion and that is the problem with the film. De Palma had early successes with two sex-lade thriller – “Dressed to Kill” and “Body Double” – and it is clear he wanted to return to those success but kick it up a notch.

He has two actresses who certainly are hot in the industry right now, a script he wrote based on a French film that has a murder plot, twists, turns and plenty of heavy breathing as well as his signature lush look.

The problem is there are too many twists, too many dream sequences posing as reality and an ending that makes little sense in its effort to impress its audience.

I love a good thriller, but it seemed to me that De Palma was trying way to hard to be clever. The conflict between an innocent and a psychopathic boss had potential enough without everything De Palma threw into his stew.

The two leads do well in their roles and McAdams seems to relish playing the role of the villain.

De Palma is a talented guy and his track record speaks to it. He was just trying too hard with this film.

Quick reminders

“The Heat” is cute buddy comedy with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy that is certainly worth the price of a Red Box rental.

I would also put “R.I.P.D.” in that category. The problem with that film is that we’ve seen chunks of it before. It has a very “Men in Black” vibe. Jeff Bridges, though, continues to amaze.

The film I bought to watch over and over is “Pacific Rim,” the tribute to the Japanese giant monster films of my youth. Director Guillermo del Toro crafted an original movie that will draw in people new to the genre, while at the same time presenting a valentine to people such as himself who grew up watching “Godzilla.”

My only advice is to buy as big a TV as you can as a large screen maximizes the film’s effect.

Avoid “This Is the End,” which could have been a great over-the-top comedy involving self-absorbed actors struggling with the end of the world, but instead was predictable and long-winded.