With the sleekly trashy misfire "Passion," Brian De Palma turns his gift for artfully decadent imitation into a kind of regrettably soulless greatest-hits packaging. Frenchman Alain Corneau's venal 2010 thriller "Love Crime" is the skeleton, its story only slightly reworked by the man behind "Dressed to Kill." It's now Rachel McAdams as the cold-blooded corporate executive with manipulative boardroom and bedroom designs on her seemingly mousy creative underling, played here by Noomi Rapace.
McAdams and Rapace are gesturally awkward and wildly miscast — more sorority sisters in a spat than cross-generational power antagonists like the original's Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier. But De Palma never intended anything but his deliberate style to be the ultimate star. As the leads warily dance around each other — using a boyfriend pawn (Paul Anderson) and concerned assistant (Karoline Herfurth) as needed — and the gamesmanship takes a deadly turn, De Palma unloads his bag of tricks: creeping zooms, split screens, subjective-camera trickery, shocking violence and a drawn-out rug-pull ending willed to operatic heights by a Pino Donaggio score.
But after the clinically dull first half, it's more desperate pantry raid than feast. That these suspense tools have given so much perverse pleasure in De Palma movies past make their only marginally enjoyable use here even more dispiriting. "Passion" will only rekindle your love affair with De Palma to the extent that his luridly artisan chiller classics are readily available afterward for another viewing.
"Passion." Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, language and some violence. Playing at Sundance Cinemas.
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