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Case Number 21175: Small Claims Court

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Passion Play

Image Entertainment // 2010 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // April 21st, 2011

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All Rise...

Recent review patterns depict the future: Judge Daryl Loomis must now become a professional wrestler who wears wings.

Editor's Note

Our review of Passion Play (Blu-ray), published June 8th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Love is stronger than death.

The Case

There are reasons you might want to see Passion Play. Mickey Rourke (Sin City) is still riding his glorious comeback, Megan Fox (Jennifer's Body) is one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood, and everybody loves Bill Murray (Caddyshack). Do not get fooled by appearances; the directorial debut of screenwriter Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) is an unfortunate project for all concerned. Full of money and big ideas, Passion Play is laughable in execution.

Nate (Rourke), a hard-luck trumpet player, seems to have run afoul of one Happy Shannon (Murray), the city's most notorious hustler. Who would have guessed that gangsters would get upset about losers sleeping with their wives? Nate finds this out the hard way, but in a miraculous stroke, his desert executioner (MMA legend Chuck Liddell, whose retirement will certainly find him in more like roles) is shot to death by mysterious figures in white. In his escape, Nate comes across a freak show, where he sees the most uncanny thing: a living, breathing angel. Really, it's just Lily (Fox), a birdwoman, but one who actually has wings. He helps Lily escape her forced carnival life and takes her to the big city, where he plans to present her to Happy in exchange for his life. But things change when Nate starts to fall in love.

When you think about the usual characters that Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray play, the thought of them facing off sounds plain silly, but just wait. While Rourke plays his stock role, Murray plays against type, as the heavy, and it does not work. Not for a second does it feel right for Murray to wield a knife, unless he was going to drop it on his foot or something, but not in anger. Much as I love him, he just doesn't have the dramatic chops that people want him to have. Rourke's role hearkens back to his old days, when he made his living having simulated sex onscreen with beautiful models and actresses. He's channeling James Wheeler from Wild Orchid, but Mitch Glazer has nowhere near the erotic capabilities of Zalman King. Megan Fox looks great, as her role demands. To show how "with it" I am, this is actually the first time I've ever watched her act. My initial impression…not so great. It looks like she's trying hard, but there isn't anything in Lily that suggests a character beyond some lady with wings. It could be the writing or the performance, but I suspect it's a lot of both.

I can see Mitch Glazer dreaming up the idea for Passion Play and thinking it was really cool. In his head, I'm sure it sounded great, but he really should have been more honest with himself. You have to throw away some ideas you think are great, and this is certainly one of those. No part of the film makes any sense, which oddly does make a kind of sense given how it plays out. The story smacks of the desire to make a modern noir, but make it "different." There are plenty of these films that follow a fairly strict formula, but are still great; I'm not sure how giving your femme fatale wings changes anything except to allow an excuse for some lame special effects. Don't worry, Megan Fox fans, she flies, but don't expect much passed that.

We received a screener for review, and likely does not represent Image Entertainment's final product. Aside from the black-and-white and watermarked bits that signify a screener, the image looks pretty good. There's an intentional softness to the image that comes through nicely. The colors look good and black levels are solid. The sound is also fine, without much going on in the rear channels, but a clear mix overall. There are no extras.

On its face, Passion Play sounded preposterous, but I had no idea how ridiculous it would be. I like Bill Murray a lot, and I'm probably a lot more forgiving of Mickey Rourke than I should be, but the two of them battling with words and fists over Megan Fox makes no logical sense. What's next, Gary Busey and Don Rickles fighting over Mila Kunis?

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Crime
• Drama
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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