You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Even the juicy lead pairing of Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, which promises solid international play, can't quite make this lurid but lukewarm divertissement seem worthy of its title.

Christine - Rachel McAdams
Isabelle - Noomi Rapace
Dani - Karoline Herfurth
Dirk - Paul Anderson

Passion” is an eye-candy parade of kinky couplings, slashed bodies, voyeuristic thrills, Hitchcockian allusions and Sapphic overtones — which is to say, it’s a new picture by Brian De Palma. Essentially taking Alain Corneau’s corporate thriller “Love Crime” and sticking it in blood-red platform heels, this tarted-up English-language remake affords some modestly campy pleasures, but lacks the delirious trash-horror verve of De Palma’s best work. Even the juicy lead pairing of Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace, which promises solid international play, can’t quite make this lurid but lukewarm divertissement seem worthy of its title.

The last film Corneau made before he died in 2010, “Love Crime” spun a diverting if preposterous tale of rivalry between a manipulative boss and her equally conniving underling — a ready-made vehicle for De Palma’s pet themes of desire, duplicity, surveillance and murderous obsession. Indeed, until its over-the-top final scenes, “Passion” cleaves almost too faithfully to its source.

Apart from relocating the action to a Berlin advertising agency, De Palma’s chief alteration is to lower the age of top exec Christine (played in the original by Kristin Scott Thomas and embodied here by McAdams), putting her and her ambitious colleague Isabelle (Rapace) on more equal footing while also extending the promise of hot girl-on-girl action. To further serve that marketable angle, Isabelle’s male assistant is now a woman, Dani (Karoline Herfurth), and rest assured that every possible two-way lip-locking combination among these three attractive femmes will be exhausted by film’s end.

Beneath her ingratiating manner and killer smile, McAdams’ Christine is one devious operator; that much is clear from a giggle-inducing sex scene in which a lover pleasures her while wearing a freakish white mask-and-wig combo apparently on loan from “The Phantom of the Kabuki.” Expertly manipulating Isabelle while showing her the ropes, Christine encourages the notion that they’re not just colleagues but close friends, and not just close friends but maybe something more. But when Isabelle scores a major coup at work, New York native Christine, eyeing a possible transfer back to the firm’s Gotham offices, immediately seizes credit for her protegee’s performance.

This kicks off a round of retaliatory power plays, shocking humiliations and ultimately fatal consequences, complicated by the involvement of sleazy company boy-toy Dirk (Paul Anderson), whom neither Christine nor Isabelle is above using for sexual or professional gain. “I’m just doing what you would do,” Isabelle tells Christine, minutely observing the woman she would secretly like to become. “Passion” approaches its source with a similar degree of studied mimicry and personal embellishment, treating the twisty contours of Corneau’s plotting as a pretext for a series of signature De Palma frissons.

The result is stuffed with enough outre sex, garish violence and modernist real-estate porn to entertain a general audience, but it nonetheless feels designed to appeal primarily to admirers of the writer-director’s back catalog. From a basic narrative standpoint, there’s no real reason for Christine to blurt out a ludicrous sob story about the identical twin she lost years ago (shades of “Sisters”), or for an extended split-screen sequence that ostentatiously divides the viewer’s attention between a ballet performance and a carefully staged murder that resembles something out of “Dressed to Kill.”

As ever, De Palma remains under the spell of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” from the Bernard Herrmann riffs in Pino Donaggio’s score to a key suspense sequence that prominently features a bouquet of flowers and a winding staircase. Rather more germane is the film’s simmering atmosphere of paranoia, generated by the characters’ frequent use of Skype calls, cell-phone videos and old-fashioned security cameras.

Clearly, “Passion” means to be a hoot, a wet-dream thriller for cinephiles. But by the time it reaches its overwrought final act, the picture has generated neither the tension of its forebears nor the audacity that would allow it to transcend its silliness, a la De Palma’s 2002 tour de force, “Femme Fatale.” Yet even in the absence of stellar material, the leads remain compulsively watchable: McAdams may lack Scott Thomas’ hauteur, but more than makes up for it in cool, svelte malevolence, while Rapace provides an energetic counterweight, lending her more naive but also more unpredictable Isabelle an edge of dark desperation.

Although Cornelia Ott’s production design and Karen Muller-Serreau’s costumes are easy enough on the eyes, the overall look of the Berlin-lensed picture isn’t quite as sumptuous as one might expect; a slightly on-the-cheap feel persists that seems consistent with the indifferent nature of the material. D.p. Jose Luis Alcaine’s palette darkens along with the story, bathing the firm’s interiors in noirish shadows, an effective if self-conscious touch.



Production: An SBS Prods. presentation of an SBS Prods., Integral Prods., France 2 Cinema production with the participation of France Televisions, Canal Plus, Cine Plus, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Deutscher Filmfoerderfonds and Wild Bunch. (International sales: SBS Prods./Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Said Ben Said. Co-producer, Alfred Huermer. Directed, written by Brian De Palma, based on the film "Crime d'amour" directed by Alain Corneau, original screenplay written by Corneau, Natalie Carter.

Crew: Camera (color), Jose Luis Alcaine; editor, Francois Gedigier; music, Pino Donaggio; music supervisor, Elise Luguern; production designer, Cornelia Ott; supervising art director, Astrid Poeschke; set decorator, Ute Bergk; costume designer, Karen Muller-Serreau; sound, Matthieu Tertois; re-recording mixer, Damien Lazzerini; special effects, Nefzer Babelsberg; visual effects supervisor, Mikael Tanguy; visual effects producer, Sarah Moreau; visual effects, Def2shoot; stunt coordinator, Volkhart Buff; line producer, Sylvie Barthet; assistant director, Sebastian Fahr-Brix; casting, Anja Dihrberg. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 5, 2012. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Special Presentations; New York Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: Christine - Rachel McAdams
Isabelle - Noomi Rapace
Dani - Karoline Herfurth
Dirk - Paul Anderson
With: Dominic Raacke, Rainer Bock, Benjamin Sadler, Michael Rotschopf, Max Urlacher, Joerg Pintsch. (English, German dialogue)

More Film

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • berlin film festival placeholder berlinale

    Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners: Complete List

    The 69th Berlin Film Festival kicked off on Saturday, with 16 films vying for the Golden and Silver Bears, among them such critically acclaimed entries as Wang Xiaoshuai’s Chinese drama “So Long, My Son” and “By the Grace of God” by François Ozon. Juliette Binoche served as Jury President, with other members of the jury [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content