October 17, 2013
Brian de Palma is the director of such memorable films of the 70s to the 80s like "Carrie," "Dressed to Kill," "Blowout," "Scarface," and "The Untouchables." After "Mission: Impossible" in 1996 though, his output had been few, far between and unremarkable.
"Passion" is de Palma's first film as director and scriptwriter since 2007. It is his own interpretation of the 2010 French film by Alain Corneau called "Crime d'Amour" (with the English title "Love Crime"). De Palma certainly had the right idea, the plot, with its stylish mix of sex and crime, is classic de Palma material.
In both films, Christine is a highly-successful executive of an advertising agency. Isabelle is her talented apprentice. When Isabelle's concept on an ad gets attention and admiration from clients, Christine grabs the credit. When Isabelle raises a fuss, Christine humiliates her in public. Incensed, Isabelle plots to murder Christine with an elaborate plan. Can she do it? Can she get away with it?
As a departure from the original, de Palma goes further to develop the role of Isabelle's assistant Dani. In "Love Crime," this character is a male, with only loyalty in mind. In "Passion", Dani is an attractive female who had her own obsessive infatuation and plot, giving the end game an additional twist.
I liked the acting in "Love Crime" more. Kristin Scott-Thomas was a realistic ruthless boss Christine, while the innocent-looking Emmanuelle Sagnier was realistic as the naive Isabelle. In "Passion," de Palma does the opposite, casting the younger, fresher-faced actress Rachel McAdams as Christine, and the older, intense-looking actress Noomi Rapace as Isabelle. I think this experiment did NOT work. Both actresses were miscast, making the entire movie suffer as a consequence.
Overall, the original "Love Crime" was the better movie because of the better casting. If de Palma had reversed the casting in his film, it may have worked better. I realized he probably meant to be unpredictable, going against stereotypes, but I think this decision worked against him. I do admit that very last scene of "Passion" sure packed an extra punch that the original did not have.
Fans of crime dramas with intricate plotting will like this film, especially those who have not seen "Love Crime" yet. Remember though that this is a European production, so do not expect Hollywood polish and pace. 6/10.