Dir: Mitch Glazer
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Rhys Ifans, Kelly Lynch
Passion Play has a bit of a reputation behind it, it was panned by critics when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2010 and it hasn’t quite recovered since. It has that reputation of being a bad film, based upon that one event, but does it actually live up to that reputation? In my opinion, no, it isn’t as bad as I had heard but it isn’t a great film either. It really falls somewhere in the middle of being bad and good, and it certainly suffers from being overly ambitious and pretentious.
There are definitely good things about this film, and I do think these have been over looked, but there are things that aren’t very good and that really has become the focus for a lot of reviewers. I believe in praising the good things that a film has to offer, and if there are things that don’t work, I always try to offer some constructive criticism. It isn’t always easy, and with this film I did feel a lot of passion from writer/director Mitch Glazer, but things didn’t quite come together the way they maybe should have and this may be due to budget constraints and other issues. Sometimes when we try to aim high for something, it doesn’t always pan out, and sometimes while having a strong ambition for it, that can also be its down fall, which I do believe is true with this film.
The story goes a little something like this; Nate (Mickey Rourke) is a small time jazz musician who is recovering from his drug addiction. Nate gets a hit put out on him because he shagged the local gangster Happy’s (Bill Murray’s) wife and that is a big no no. He’s taken into the desert to meet his fate, but escapes death and wonders onto a circus run by Sam (Rhys Ifans). It is there he meets what he calls an angel named Lily (Megan Fox), a woman with wings who is one of the circus attractions. He feels the need to save her from this place and Sam, so they escape together. With such a stunning creature with him, Nate feels that she might be the answer to his Happy problem and offers her to him. He regrets this decision having fallen for her, and he tries to get her back.
This is a strange one this, as soon as Nate is taken into the desert this film goes into an almost dream like state and it is possible this could be *spoiler alert* all a fantasy or a strange vision that represents Nate’s redemption and acceptance into an after life. The ending of the film certainly makes it feel like it is the case and that could explain why the film changes so early into it – *end spoiler*. This is a kind of redemption story, and there is nothing wrong with those at all, however Nate is never really a likeable character and it is hard to get behind him at all throughout it, even when he tries to do the right thing. His big mistake just doesn’t seem to fit what we’ve seen and it is such a horrible act that for me he couldn’t be redeemed and it just didn’t make much sense. The characters in general are not very likeable, except for Lily who is this pure and innocent creature and she has not done anything wrong, but constantly gets wronged because of who she is. I do think the film may have worked better if the characters weren’t just terrible people, and a contradiction. There was potential in there but it just didn’t quite work out. Nate *spoiler alert* becomes the very thing he wants to save Lily from and for me this didn’t sit well and I didn’t want to see this man get redeemed for it – *end spoiler*.
Acting wise it is a mixed bag, Mickey Rourke actually puts in a good performance. He is a very strong and talented actor and he certainly gave this role a lot and it does show. I do wish his character would have been better and someone slightly likeable because I think he could have done more with it. Surprisingly Megan Fox is great in this, this is something for her to showcase there is more to her than eye candy. She really did put her heart into this role, and I could really feel that. The woman held her own against Rourke and Murray, and she actually shared a very real chemistry with Rourke which does work to the films advantage at points. As I understand it the two actors had a great time working together and this does show a lot. Bill Murray felt like he was here doing a favour, he is fine in the role but he just seemed rather disinterested. There was potential for the character of Happy to be developed but it wasn’t really, and this I do think affected the performance. Rhys Ifans was actually laughable in this, not because he was bad, but because he was over the top and just chewed the scenery.
With Rourke and Fox adding some positive elements to the film, they do make this one an easier watch. The story at hand isn’t altogether bad, I just think the execution didn’t quite work for it. Mitch Glazer was hit and miss with his script and directing, this was a project that was his passion for so long, and I just don’t think the circumstances were quite right when he was finally able to make it. There are some extremely unintentionally hilarious scenes and these are very much due to the poor quality CGI wings that Megan Fox has and how they are incorporated. The ending especially just did not work due to this, and it was meant to be something beautiful that I couldn’t help but giggle at. At the end of the day Passion Play isn’t a total failure, and I am glad I watched it, I certainly gained a new respect for Megan Fox. I do believe this film is going to go down in the books as something overly ambitious with a bit of a David Lynch style. I cannot say if people should see it or not, that is not my decision but I do hope this review is in some way helpful.
The Australian DVD:
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill, care of Eagle Entertainment for the copy.