DePalma’s ‘Passion’ sorely lacks passion

Juan Barquin/Columnist

Many people toss around the words “return to form” lightly when speaking of a director finally returning to what once made their work great. When the trailer for Brian De Palma’s “Passion” released, hopes were high for his own return to form, but the sad truth is it’s not much better than the flop “The Black Dahlia.”

The idea of remaking French film “Crime d’Amour” fit perfectly with De Palma, as the two great performances in the film were contained within a rather lifeless story. As much of the brilliance of his past, be that “Dressed to Kill” or even “Sisters,” that he tries to bring in, “Passion” still feels like a melodramatic TV movie.

A tale of sex, murder and mystery is thrown together here as an advertising agency boss (Rachel McAdams) and her protegee (Noomi Rapace) fall into disagreements following stolen credit for a project. Tensions, both sexual and violent, both rise quickly, leading to events that could ruin them both.

Any chemistry between the women is non-existent and that’s a huge hindrance in a film where the two leads need sexual tension. Having McAdams and Rapace play against type was a bad decision, made worse by the fact that they have both been at the top of their games as mean girls and naive women before.

Alain Corneau and Natalie Carter’s screenplay for “Crime d’Amour” was never the most unconventional or interesting story, but it did have two performances worth witnessing whereas “Passion” only holds awkward dialogue and sometimes over-the-top delivery. DePalma barely adds anything new to his adaptation, but there is something to say about how nice it looks.

Outside of occasionally veering into the aforementioned TV movie territory, the colorful look and seemingly classic score is actually pleasant for the most part. Its best feature, though, is an engaging split screen sequence set to Debussy that genuinely rivals some of the set pieces in his earlier work.

Adding a little extra sex and mystery to a story usually pays off, but when a film is lacking as much chemistry and passion as “Passion” is, one finds oneself experiencing something bland and not interesting.