The business world can be cutthroat -- but in the hands of Brian De Palma it also becomes a virtual cesspool of betrayal, kinky sex, drugs, madness, and even murder.  This is the world of Passion, which despite its title is a flat mystery-drama.

Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams) is the boss at a European ad agency, with Isabelle James (Nooni Rapace) as her protege.  But things aren't good between them: Christine takes the credit for Isabelle's daring new ad campaign, while Isabelle is sleeping with Christine's boyfriend Dirk (Paul Anderson).  And Isabelle's assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) hates Christine and may have a crush of Isabelle.

Christine is highly narcissistic and manipulative, from a kinky sex life (including a white mask that looks like her) to alternating between seducing and humiliating Isabelle.  Isabelle has her own secrets and problems, which aren't helped by the stress of the job.  And soon there's a murder...
Passion may be trying to be daring and risque (it's a remake of the French film Love Crime), but it comes off more melodramatic that either enticing or suspenseful.  De Palma has often been accused of copying Hitchcock's style, and that's certainly true here; it especially shows near the end, as the shadows and lighting are used to show Isabelle's darkened state of mind.  Both McAdams and Rapace are stuck in one-dimensional roles that don't give them much room to stretch, and the movie's final twists and turns aren't satisfying.
Passion isn't a terrible movie, but it is terribly routine.  For a movie trying to be risque, it's pretty ordinary.  (Dvd extras consist of interviews with the director and two stars.)

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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