Brian De Palma has long been considered by many to be the master of the modern erotic thriller - "Dressed to Kill" helped to define the genre post-70s, and "Body Double" damn near detonated it. So many were excited to see him return to the genre with his latest work, "Passion." The picture, however, is less a sexy thriller than it is an formalist experiment wrapped in the disguise of a sexy thriller. It’s all played at a tone beyond camp, but still, the structure is strong enough to maintain interest.
For the first half of the picture, stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace trade barbs as corporate competitors; the big fish and the young upstart, respectively, at a large European marketing firm. They constantly compete, using underhanded tactics to leapfrog each other in the eyes of their superiors. After a few reels’ worth of back-and-forth, however, a show-stopping split-screen set piece breaks the film in half. The falling action depicts the two as literal backstabbers; as women who kill, maim and cover up corpses in order to help themselves get ahead. De Palma is looking at office politics in the first half and at lurid violence in the second; suggesting that he sees no difference.
There’s but a lone extra on the Blu-ray disc: a featurette where De Palma, McAdams, Rapace and another costar expound on the twists-and-turns plot of the film. Yet you’d almost be better off skipping it: the ludicrous universe presented by "Passion" - full of sex videos and strap-ons, inside and out of the workplace - is better when processed with no buffer or prior expectations. The tone of this film is so clearly defined, so confidently presented, that it transcends mere judgments of good or bad. You can’t escape the camp, the experimental structure, the ridiculousness, the artifice, the De Palma-ness of it all - you can only embrace it.