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Passion

by Kevin Taft
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Friday Aug 30, 2013
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Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in Brian DePalma’s ’Passion’
Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams in Brian DePalma’s ’Passion’  

Based on the 2010 French film "Crime d’amour," this remake -- written and directed by Brian De Palma -- is a fun, giddy pleasure that harkens back to De Palma’s early work and the workplace thrillers of the ’90s. (Think "Disclosure.")

Passion takes place in Germany, where Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams) is a high-powered creative executive at an ad agency with her eyes on the prize of getting back to New York City. Her right-hand gal Isabelle James (Noomi Rapace) is a smart thinker, and just wants to do a good job. The two act like best girl friends until Christine steals one of Isabelle’s ideas and shows her true colors. Isabelle takes matters into her own hands, and along with her assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth "Perfume") she plots her own rise to the top.

The script (adapted by De Palma) is a plateful of delicious banter and double and triple-crosses that leaves the audience gleefully off-balance while keeping them intrigued. It’s clever enough -- and knows itself well enough -- that it can be campy and over-the-top, because that’s exactly what it’s trying to be.

The twists and turns are many, but they don’t always seem to make sense so that can be frustrating. That said, it’s certainly a movie you might watch more than once to try and figure things out, because you realize while watching it that every line of dialogue and every moment has a purpose. We might not totally understand how they fit together, but if you give yourself over to the puzzle of it all, it has its rewards.

"Passion" is an old-fashioned noir where sex is used as a weapon, and all the characters love to lie and manipulate each other.

Rachel McAdams has a lot of fun getting back to playing an adult Mean Girl. It’s been a while since she’s played this kind of role, so it’s a joy to watch her sink her teeth into it. Noomi Rapace -- usually a bit icy, considering her past roles in "Prometheus" and the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" -- shows a vulnerability which we don’t often get to see from her.

She has the meatiest role, and hers is the character that changes the most, but that doesn’t take away from McAdams and her bitch-you-love-to-hate moments. The film belongs to Rapace and McAdams all the way, and it’s a trip to watch them duke it out.

De Palma is certainly going back to his roots here, harkening back to films like "Body Double," "Dressed to Kill" and "Blow Out." He starts the film in glossy bright colors. The sets are sleek and modern, and his characters are dressed to the nines. But as things start getting wonky and the characters come to be at odds with each other, he starts to skew the look of the film; this is where it begins to resemble his earlier work. Dutch camera angles and creative lighting start seeping in. There’s even a split-screen sequence where what he is showing is not all it seems to be.

"Passion" is old-fashioned noir where sex is used as a weapon, and all the characters love to lie and manipulate each other. This might make many of the characters unlikable, but they are so deliciously revolting that you revel at the opportunity to determine which one of them is the less awful.

To be fair, this isn’t for everyone and those not familiar with De Palma’s early work might find the performances and direction a bit off-putting. But he did this film for the fans, and those fans will be pleased. He might even find a few converts, as well.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to ’Star Wars’ and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg. He can be seen in the flesh on the weekly PBS movie review series "Just Seen It."

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