Review: Passion Play
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray
Director: Mitch Glazer
Studio: Annapurna Productions
Running Time: 91 minutes
Mitch Glazer, you son of a bitch, I want both my time and money back, but excluding that I will settle for getting a little self therapy out here for having had to sit through your atrocious movie ‘Passion Play’ in this review. I hate to start off a post with an out and out obscenity like that folks but I’m really almost at a complete loss for words here. I feel as though my capacity for abject thought has been lowered substantially in the last ninety minutes of my life, and I therefore need to get this review written before it drops down to the point at which I will no longer be able to type and/or think in even a semi-coherent manner…. which would put me at about equal footing with the writer/director of this sad excuse for a film. This movie is so bad it’s actually remarkable. How do you manage to both squander an absolute all star cast like this, and more stupefying than that, make a sex scene with Megan Fox that is both completely un-arousing, and actually rather disgusting? My mind is still trying to wrap itself around that one. Sigh. Passion Play is a movie so astoundingly awful, so completely, excruciatingly, painfully stupid that I am still honestly recovering from the experience of having had to endure it.
Normally I have a pretty decent nose for movies that are going to suck the big ones, hence why you’ll probably never see a post on here by me bitching about some Tyler Perry or Uwe Boll flick that I just brought home and popped in the old DVD player. Every now and then a stinker slips by my radar, but, since most of the movies I watch are paid for with money out of my pocket, and take time out of my life, I try to be at least a little selective. That said I would now like to take this moment to sit quietly and solemnly retrace the steps that lead to me having made this most terrible renting decision at my local movie gallery tonight. I’m doing this for two reasons. First, so you dear reader can understand why I had hoped this would be a good film in the first place, and secondly so I can hopefully begin the healing process.
For starters, on the front of the movie box I saw three things I liked quite a bit. One of them was Megan Fox, an actress (I’ll call her that for kindness sake anyway) that I’m a fan of for reasons that no heterosexual man on this planet needs reiterated. The second was Mickey Rourke, one of my favorite tough guy actors ever, who has been on a hot-streak career wise lately after his breakthrough comeback performance in ‘The Wrestler’, and a guy who can usually be counted upon to raise the quality of even poor films somewhat. To be fair his acting here is not what drags this film down. He has some nice moments, even if his performance is kind of ‘phoned in’, but they are all buried inside this utter swirl of swill of a script. Finally, Bill Freakin’ Murray (And yes that is his legal middle name now I think), one of my all time favorite actors and star of numerous classic films of my childhood, such as Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, Stripes, Groundhog Day etc etc… Bill Murray is also pretty good at picking out good projects in these later years of his career. From his award winning turn in ‘Lost in Translation’ to the great, but overlooked ‘Broken Flowers’ he has been quietly stacking up a shelf’s worth of great performances this past decade. So, needless to say reading the back of the box this movie looked like a sure-fire can’t miss.
It was advertised as a hard boiled noir film with two great actors playing old time hard asses, doing battle for an unbelievably hot chick caught in the middle. The fact that Megan Fox is half the age of Rourke and Murray here was bothersome from the get-go, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, as that’s far from the first time such a thing has happened on screen, and in the end that was far from the worst sin this film committed, and believe me, it committed many.
So now let me attempt to describe the events that befell my eyes during the course of this picture. Mickey Rourke plays Nate, a man who is a down on his luck trumpet player at a fairly big jazz night club. One night after blowing on his horn he walks out to his car, gets punched in the face, drug out to the desert where he is about to be shot, when out of the blue a group of Indians in white outfits shoot his attacker from the hills and then flee the scene, never to be seen again. Nate then brushes himself off and begins wandering in the desert until he stumbles upon a traveling carnival. He pays the proprietor a dollar, for a telephone call, but instead all he gets is admission to the freak show, where dozens upon dozens of people put out fire in their mouths (apparently the only trick simple enough to teach a bunch of actors en masse) and have various physical deformities. At the back of this freak show is Lily (Megan Fox) standing in a glass box with internal lighting. Oh yeah, and she’s got wings. Not the kind that Red Bull gives you I mean, but real feathery bird wings. And we come to learn later that no, they’re not fake. These are actual wings that are actually on her body at all times. Why she has them, how she got them, or any meaningful discussion of what they mean to human evolution as we know it is never satisfactorily dealt with by any of the characters in this film. They just think they look awful pretty, which, they don’t. At this point my countenance began to fall, never to revive again.
So Nate is still wandering around the carnival and begins peeping in on Lily inside her trailer. She is justifiably pissed off, but only for a second. Soon Nate and Lily for no apparent reason begin a romance. After Nate leaves her trailer he is cornered by Lily’s handler and his goons who suspect him of being there to steal away his prize bird-lady. Why he would think this was a real mystery to me until I just gave up and decided he was a paranoid nutcase and left it at that. The time this movie took to establish all this mistrust and danger, as well as the relationship between Rourke and Fox was about the same length of time it normally takes me to sneeze. So while I’m still trying to figure who the hell those damn Indians were, and why that guy was going to shoot Nate in the first place, Lily is already driving through a wall with her pick up truck to rescue Nate from her present circus employer. Also in this movie I should point out that it switches from day to night randomly and without any thought to continuity which was kind of disorientating to say the least. At this point I gave up trying to follow along and simply allowed that this movie’s intent was to take my brain and play pinball with it until I either tapped out or suffered a severe hemorrhage and died.
So Lily and Nate go on a journey that leads them to ‘’the city” (where all great noir takes place) where Nate, stupidly, makes a deal with a gangster named Happy, played here by Bill Murray in a role he’s clearly bored to death with. Murray basically plays a low key version of himself here, and while he does manage to get a few laughs, it’s nowhere near enough to justify his participation in this fiasco. Murray does manage to make a surprisingly convincing gangster though, being more menacing than I’m used to seeing him. Aside from the bit he had in Kingpin and the classic Christmas movie ‘Scrooged’, I’m definitely not used to seeing him play the bad guy, but he’s definitely up to par. While doing a little necessary research on this movie for this review, I read that Scrooged was written by the same man (Mitch Glazer) who wrote and directed this movie, which makes sense in that they’re both very, very weird and heavy on artful scenes and shots, however the difference being ‘Scrooged’ was actually semi-enjoyable (even though the great Roger Ebert hated it almost as much as I hated this movie) and this movie is not even enjoyable accidentally.
The deal Nate makes is basically to share the money they will both make off of Lily, with Happy taking a large percent as payback for Nate having formerly slept with his wife. At this point I am left to wonder, what kind of moronic asshole is this Nate guy? He’s basically making a deal to pimp out this poor girl in order to make amends with a ruthless gangster who would just as soon shoot him as look at him. That Happy does not kill Nate as soon as he shows up is either a testament to his own stupidity, or just his sheer incredulity and curiosity that Nate could possibly be so brazenly and audaciously stupid himself. To the surprise of no one, Happy double crosses Nate, kidnaps Lily, and Nate has to then spend the rest of the movie trying to get back his feathered fem fatale before Happy nests her for good.
Everything from this point on settles into a washed out formulaic series of scenes, the culmination of which you can see coming a mile away. And at the end everything is wrapped up with one of those out of nowhere swerves. That twist falls just as flat as everything that came before it, and still mostly just left me wondering who the hell those damn Indians were.
Avoid this movie at all costs, even if it involves self mutilation or anything this side of having to sit through ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’. Do not buy it. Do not rent it. Do not download it. Do not allow anyone you care about to do any of those things either. If you happen to be watching television and this movie comes on, find a large object, such as a baseball bat or a sledge hammer and beat your TV to pieces. I wish that I could give this movie negative ten thousand stars or more, or at the very least, no stars, but instead, in compliance with the new system I am begrudgingly obligated to award this flaming piece of monkey crap one, very undeserved and unearned star. You’re welcome. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need a drink.