Perversely eccentric and frequently inert, screenwriter Mitch Glazer’s directorial debut, “Passion Play,” will benefit from some of the well-known names attached (Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray), but the near-painful hipness of the production will yield poisonous word of mouth. A lot of talent is assembled, not much is accomplished and the incoherence seems to be contagious: Estimable d.p. Christopher Doyle lights the film as if it were an illuminated snowglobe. Hardcore Fox fans might dig in, but wiser auds will find sustenance elsewhere.
When jazz trumpeter Nate Poole (Rourke) is abducted outside the Dream lounge one late night and driven to the desert, he expects a bullet in the head: He’s slept with the wife of notorious gangster Happy Shannon (Murray), and Happy isn’t happy. But just as Nate is saying his prayers, the hitman is shot dead by a group of Apache ninjas, who then run off into the hills. Nate takes the car and wanders off to find a pay phone (and when was the last time someone did that in a movie?).
What he finds instead is a little piece of paradise: A lunatic Mexican carnival run by a barking-mad barker named Sam (Rhys Ifans, reining in nothing) and its chief attraction, Lily the Bird Girl, who is kept on display behind a window (Fox in a box?), viewings only $1. Nate is amazed — Lily really has wings — and smitten, too. And he figures that if he can spirit the lovely Lily away, parlay her into an attraction that will profit him, and split those profits with Happy, he can get himself off the hook. Naturally, things don’t work out as planned.
“Passion Play” tries and tries to generate some metaphorical/allegorical depth with of a story that’s too simplistic to evoke much cogitation. Murray, as always, can breathe life into even the most turgid dialogue, but Rourke really seems to think he’s on to something, and Fox, lips perpetually parted, doesn’t seem to be thinking. Or perhaps she’s thinking too hard.
Production values are mediocre.