Almost everybody has had a boss they can’t stand for one reason or another. But everyone might feel better about their own situation by comparison after watching Passion, in which the petty nuisances of office politics escalate into tragically psychotic behavior.
It’s an English remake of a French revenge thriller called Love Crime, which was released a couple of years ago, by veteran filmmaker Brian De Palma, who likely was attracted to the material because it has some thematic connections to some of his earlier work. It gave the director a chance to revisit the type of gritty psychological thriller that helped launch his career four decades ago.
Christine (Rachel McAdams) is a ruthless executive at a Berlin advertising agency whose dedication earns the respect of Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), her talented new subordinate. But their relationship turns sour when jealous Christine takes credit for one of Isabelle’s successful ideas, then humiliates her when she tries to retaliate.
From there, the manipulative power struggle spirals out of control, with Christine using her authority to play sinister mind games with Isabelle, whose passive-aggressive response soon turns into something much more devious.
De Palma, who also wrote the script, stays faithful to the source material for the most part, except for a couple of pivotal changes. In his version, Christine and Isabelle are closer together in age, which eliminates the generation gap from the original film but allows De Palma to significantly ratchet up the sexual tension between the women.
Yet Passion doesn’t improve on its predecessor, and ultimately experiences some of the same pitfalls, including a primary twist that comes too soon and a tendency to stray further from reality as it goes along. That’s most likely intentional, but it doesn’t maintain a consistent level of suspense.
Curiously, De Palma makes an effort to update the setting of the film yet doesn’t offer much of a critique on the contemporary corporate world or economic climate in which it takes place. At least McAdams and Rapace enthusiastically chew into their duplicitous roles.
The film spends the first half building tension and motive in almost Hitchcockian fashion, then pops the balloon after about an hour and gleefully indulges in reckless comic mayhem. De Palma skillfully navigate both segments, but fitting them together is a mystery he can’t solve.
Rated R, 102 minutes.