When Mickey Rourke dismisses his own film as “terrible” more than a month before its release, smart people would simply take the man at his word and move on. Then there are those who will watch “Passion Play,” wincing the whole way through.
Rourke stars as Nate Poole, a once famous trumpet player who falls in love with a beautiful winged circus freak (Megan Fox). He helps her escape from the clutches of the mean old barker (Rhys Ifans), only to have a gangster (Bill Murray) whom he’s wronged try to steal her away. It’s even more tortured than it sounds.
Mitch Glazer, who’s penned such films as “Scrooged,” “Three of Hearts” and “The Recruit,” wrote "Passion Play," which is also his directorial debut. Despite a great cast, that also includes Glazer’s wife, Kelly Lynch, the film is a mess. Aside from a few moments filled with rich colors, much of the film looks not just low-budget, but cheap, with a strangely frequent use of green screens, even for moments as mundane as sitting on a rock in the desert or standing on a rooftop. And the framing on some of the shots is maddening, with people repeatedly cropped out of the frame.
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Forgiving Glazer for his miscues behind the camera would be a lot easier if the script was up to snuff, but from the mysterious band of Indians clad in all white marching through the desert to the often ponderously bad dialogue, there’s no safe harbor.
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Nobody suffers more at the hands of “Passion Play” than Megan Fox, who was smirkingly derided by Rourke as “the greatest actress I’ve ever worked with.” In addition the awful words Glazer puts in her mouth, she spends most of the film opposite Rourke, who positively phones it in, making his bizarre turn in “The Expendables” seem nuanced by comparison. He’s not gonna be able to rely on his Mickey Rourke-ness for much longer.
Bill Murray is woefully miscast as gangster Happy Shannon. Murray’s genius succeeds when well-adjusted people surround him, but his dry sardonic take is rendered toothless when he’s opposite low-energy misery. And seeing him styled to look like Colin Firth in “A Single Man” is beyond jarring.
Glazer clearly set out to craft a noir fairytale about redemption, but he misses completely the tone and feel, and what we get instead is a disjointed hodgepodge of tough guys, hot dames and violence. Just a few days after calling “Passion Play” terrible, Rourke tried to recant the sentiment and offer an apology to both Glazer, but the fact is, he got it right the first time.