Brian De Palma dips into his old bag of tricks once again with Passion, resurrecting his exercises in stylistic silliness. From Dressed to Kill to Body Double to Femme Fatale, it’s the director’s return to what could be described as Hitchschlockian. His affinity for the Master of Suspense has been evident for decades. Unlike Hitchcock, his homages come with a hard R rating and an increased level of the ridiculous. De Palma is winking hard here with throwbacks to past uses of split screen, which is used memorably in a ballet sequence mixed with blood. If only the whole thing were more consistently enjoyable.
The character of Christine (Rachel McAdams) is one that’s basically required to smoke cigarettes and she does. She’s an ad exec with limitless ambition and a do whatever it takes attitude. Her assistant Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) appears more quiet and reserved, but it turns out she’s ruthless as well. She’s having an affair with Christine’s beau (Paul Anderson) and that dynamic creates all kinds of melodrama as Christine wants her in that way as well. It all comes with a heaping of the sleaze De Palma is known for gleefully wallowing in. Karoline Herfurth plays Isabelle’s subordinate who also has a massive crush on her. Essentially, everyone has a thing for Isabelle. Rapace is stuck with the more subdued role while McAdams gets to have a good time with her over the top part.
Dressed to Kill is easily the filmmaker’s finest work in this genre. Nothing has really come close since, but all follow-ups certainly have their flashes of depraved fun. That applies to Passion, but it takes too long to get there. For De Palma aficionados, the nostalgic payoffs don’t really begin until that screen splits and twists start to follow. Unfortunately that’s about an hour into the proceedings. By then, even De Palma’s most ardent fans burning for Passion might have subsided a bit.
**1/2 (out of four)