"Passion" is Brian De Palma's teasing, overripe remake of the forgettable French thriller "Love Crime." With its broadly drawn characters, erotic hints of homo- and heterosexual betrayal and lethal corporate intrigues, it's a competent take on material that may have seemed more current and scandalous in France (in 2010) than it does in America.
The hook here is that the corporate folks seducing, stealing credit from and back-stabbing each other are women.
Isabelle ( Noomi Rapace) is a European ad exec who, with her provocatively dressed assistant ( Karoline Herfurth), cooks up an account-saving cell phone campaign based on what the camera on that phone catches when a good-looking woman leaves it on in the back pocket of her tight jeans. Video of men spraining their necks as they turn around to check out the woman's bottom becomes a viral sensation.
But the moment this winning pitch is made, Isabelle's American boss Christine ( Rachel McAdams) takes credit for it. Isabelle seems overmatched against the composed, ruthless Christine. Revenge comes only after serious study.
Isabelle dallies with Christine's corporate beau ( Paul Anderson). It backfires and Isabelle cracks up. And that's when things get real.
McAdams has been a polished mean girl ever since "Mean Girls." Pale, with perfectly lurid red lipstick and the cold-eyed confidence of a killer, she seduces, ensnares and fillets as if for sport -- anything to get her back to the New York home office.
"I used to want to be admired," she purrs. "But now I want to be loved."
Since her "Dragon Tattoo" days, Rapace has worn a sort of bi-curious persona well -- a victim who can turn into a cunning hunter in a flash. Is Isabelle really lovelorn, tempted out of her depth, easily manipulated by men or women who take an interest?
The dialogue, straight out of the Bette Davis / Joan Crawford era of epic Hollywood cat fights, leans toward "You're more like me than you think," with the actresses -- McAdams especially -- wearing their best "Of course you know this means war!" scowl.
De Palma flirts with the lurid and tosses in some interesting third-act surprises, but never finds his way back to the sexually charged tone and shocks of his earlier thrillers (e.g. "Dressed to Kill"). The plot tricks aren't that tricky, the broadly played characters are red herrings.
As with much of the director's recent work, like "Black Dahlia" and "Femme Fatale," "Passion" is the very thing this movie lacks.
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Paul Anderson, Rainer Bock
Directed by Brian De Palma, written by Natalie Carter and Brian De Palma, based on the French film "Love Crime." An eOne release
Running time: 1:42
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, language and some violence
Photo/Video credit: SBS Films