Review: PASSION PLAY (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Review: PASSION PLAY (2011)

RATING: 0.5/5

The word "scattershot" is best described for screenwriter Mitch Glazer's (2003's THE RECRUIT) long-awaited directorial debut, PASSION PLAY -- a hugely disappointing melodrama that tries hard to be something like Wim Wenders' WINGS OF DESIRE (1987) of sorts but fails miserably on all counts.

Down and out-of-luck jazz trumpeter Nate Poole (Mickey Rourke) is caught attempting to steal a car outside the Dream lounge one late night, only to get knocked out by a mob thug. As soon as Nate wakes up, he finds himself in the car and he is being taken to the middle of the desert, where he is about to get a bullet in his head. Apparently Nate has made a mistake of bedding the wife (Kelly Lynch) of a notorious gangster named Happy Shannon (Bill Murray), and naturally Happy isn't pleased about it. But now all Nate can do is close his eyes and says his prayer, as he is facing his own execution. However he gets lucky when the mob thug is gunned down by a group of Apache ninjas (I kid you not) appear out of nowhere, who then disappear off into the hills. Soon he wanders off across the desert, hoping to find a pay phone somewhere until he stumbles upon a small circus carnival runs by a lunatic owner named Sam (Rhys Ifans). There he finds himself immediately attracted to the circus' star attraction -- a beautiful young woman named Lily (Megan Fox) who has a pair of wings sticking out of her back. She calls herself as "The Bird Woman", but insists she's not an angel except that she's just a freak. All of the sudden Nate feels so sympathized of her that he's willing to take her away. After a quick escape off the circus, they head back to the city and lay low somewhere in a cheap motel. Since Lily is such a rarity, Nate figures he can make some profits by introducing her to Happy. Of course things doesn't work out as he planned.

Glazer has reportedly wrote his own screenplay twenty years ago and kept it out of Hollywood studio system so he can make the movie independently. It hardly matters anyway, since his screenplay is just plain awful. While he does tries to touch upon metaphorical depth within his storytelling context, there's nothing particularly heartfelt at all. Blame it on his weak direction. He has clearly no sense of pacing and above all, subtlety. Everything is just hampered with a series of boring melodrama and tedious characterization that drags on and on during the course of its 92-minutes. And it's almost feels like eternity.

Despite attaching some of the well-known names (Rourke, Fox and Murray) in the movie, all of them are just going through the motion and deliver their performances haphazardly. While Rourke is always at ease playing a washed-out character just like he did successfully in THE WRESTLER (2008), there's hardly a depth deep within his world-weary surface. Instead his acting turns out to be more lazy as if he sleepwalks throughout his performance.

In the movie that supposed to introduce "serious acting" mode for Megan Fox, who is heavily criticized for parading her beauty more than anything else, her tortured performance as Lily is fairly exceptional at first. She does emote convincingly earlier in the movie, but it's a shame to see that the script fails to establish her character further. Bill Murray, in the meantime, does his trademark deadpan expression in a bizarrely comical role as Happy Shannon.

Production-wise, the movie is substandard at best. Despite enlisting renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle (who often collaborated with Wong Kar-Wai) in the mix, his noirish color scheme here is surprisingly lackluster.

No wonder PASSION PLAY barely survived in a very brief theatrical release before subsequently dumped as straight-to-DVD release. Perhaps if Glazer handles the direction to somebody else more qualified, it could have been a different matter altogether. But what we have here is a movie that is a painfully waste of time.

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