Review: Passion Play

Passion Play (2010, directed by Mitch Glazer)

Holy fuck is this thing bad.

Mickey Rourke plays a Chet Baker-esque, washed-up junkie trumpeter who gets dragged out into the desert to be killed by a hitman because he fucked the wife of a gangster. When he's miraculously saved, he staggers off and finds a sideshow in the desert, where he meets a freak played by Megan Fox, who amazingly enough is there because she has bird wings growing out of her back and not because of her thumbs. He springs her from her metaphorical cage with the intent to trade her to the gangster, but in a shocking twist falls in lobe with her instead. Things go downhill from there.

It's hard to pick out exactly what the worst thing about Passion Play is. Certainly Mitch Glazer's script and direction are neck and neck. The set-up goes for magic realism territory and winds up in Painful Clicheville instead (i.e. when the hitman, played by a mute Chuck Liddell of UFC fame, is about to shoot him, Mickey looks up at a hawk soaring in the sky. Seriously, a fucking hawk) while he delivers his clumsy script in the most stifling, stylized example of early '90s LA style I've seen since, well, every bad movie shot in the valley in the early '90s. It's all crappy smooth jazz covers of classic songs, and laconic camera moves, and no sense of urgency or danger or anything except that oblivious arrogance Steely Dan made a living out of skewering.

What might actually be worse than Glazer's efforts though is Rourke's performance. He phones it in to the point that he's almost engaged in self-parody, staggering through lines of dialogue so incoherently that he has to repeat himself two or three times just to wring some semblance of meaning out of them. He's not just bad. He actually gets out-acted by Fox, which is really a hell of a feat when you think about it.

About the only decent thing about the film is Bill Murray as the gangster, who as per usual manages to look just fine despite the cinematic atrocities taking place around him.

Let me put it to you this way: fully two-thirds of the audience at the screening I was at was gone by the time the house lights came up. And most of those who stayed only stuck around to settle a bet on what position would get used for Rourke and Fox's sex scene - would he be on his back, with her spreading her wings above him? Or would he be kneeling, so she could tenderly enfold him with her feathers?

I would have preferred some sort of elevated doggie style myself, with Fox flapping madly to keep herself aloft and at the right angle, but that kind of outside-the-box thinking wasn't going to happen in Passion Play.

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