Is there any passion involved in murdering someone? Passion would lead us to believe, largely, no. All it really takes is some cold calculation and the rights to remake another movie—in this case Alain Corneau’s final film, Love Crime. Originally released in 2010, Love Crime had the believable erotic edge and subtlety that, let’s face it, De Palma has never been capable of. Plus, it’s difficult to trump Kristin Scott Thomas when it comes to playing ferocious bitches, and, try as she might, the extent of Rachel McAdams’ “meanness” plateaued at Regina George.
Following the plot of Love Crime nearly to the letter, Passion follows a successful and ruthless advertising executive, Christine (McAdams), as she takes a less experienced ingénue under her wing, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace). Christine embodies the prototypical shrew of a businesswoman, acting like a total cunt to anyone who disobeys her orders. In many ways, her character is perhaps what Madonna in the video for “Bad Girl” would have turned out to be if given the chance to be in a full-length film. When Isabelle showcases her ability to one-up Christine on an ad campaign for Panasonic (just one of many product placements—including Stoli), she begins to take measures to ensure that Isabelle will stay in line.
To make matters worse, Isabelle is involved in an affair with Christine’s boyfriend, Dirk (Paul Anderson), whose own scandalous entanglements with Christine have him in way over his head. Although Isabelle seems naïve enough to trust in Christine’s lies—even a sob story about how she accidentally caused her twin sister’s death—it’s clear that she has some tricks of her own up her sleeve. Her assistant, Dani (Karoline Herfurth), is her primary source of protection against the mind games of Christine. As far as erotic thrillers go (a genre that can either go very wrong or very well as there’s rarely an in-between result), Passion struggles to come across as even remotely titillating. Sure, there’s a few chaste kisses exchanged between Isabelle and Christine and some allusions to strap-ons, etc., but, you know, big deal.
After Christine takes the credit for the work Isabelle did on Panasonic, something within Isabelle shifts, and she sees Christine for the self-serving bastard she is. The build-up to the grand finale of Passion is somewhat languid in its progression, never quite making sense or paying off in the end. We’re supposed to vacillate between thinking Isabelle is mentally unstable in one moment and completely coherent the next, and, for the most part, De Palma triumphs in fooling us into placing faith in the wrong character--which, granted, is in and of itself a challenging feat he deserves props for.
Regardless of De Palma’s seasoned skill when it comes to duping an audience, his attempts at the erotic thriller, as with Body Double and Femme Fatale, always end up leaving a slightly bitter taste in your mouth.