It’s possible to make an enjoyably bad movie. People don’t gather together to watch Plan 9 From Outer Space or Manos: The Hands of Fate because they’re masochists who have nothing better to do with their time; it’s because they’re cinematic train wrecks so ridiculous that they end up being humorous.Passion Play wishes it could be that kind of movie. Instead, not only is Mitch Glazer’s directorial debut a truly horrible film, but a miserable cinema experience.
Mickey Rourke plays Nate Poole, a trumpet player on the run from a gangster named Happy (Bill Murray), who wants to kill him because Nate slept with his wife. After being kidnapped by a hitman and taken out to the desert to be shot, Nate’s saved by a roaming group of ninjas – not making this up – who then leave and are never heard from again. On the hunt for a phone, Nate wanders into a freakshow where he finds Lily (Megan Fox), a “bird woman” who has feathered wings growing out of her back. After helping her escape from a psychotic carney boss (Rhys Ifans), Nate then develops a plan in which he’ll use Lily to strike a business deal with Happy – Prostitution? Solo freak show? The movie never bothers to explain – except to say that it’ll spare his life.
Like any bad movie, Passion Play’s biggest problems start at the core: story and characters. Nate isn’t an anti-hero, he’s an unsympathetic asshole, and worse an utter bore. On the other side coin while it’s explained that Happy is the villain, he’s more sad and dull, than evil and vengeful. Starting to notice a pattern here? It continues with Lily, who is fairly hard to describe since she doesn’t really have a character. Combine all of those elements with a story that doesn’t actually go anywhere and you have a complete mess on your hands.
Despite a cast with potential, there’s reason to suspect the actors took a handful of valium before each take. The exception to this is Ifans, who ends up on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Emotionally stillborn, it’s impossible to tell what any character is feeling because their portrayer seems dead from the neck up. Simply not worthy of the talent it supports, namely Murray and Rourke, one can only think that they took on their respective roles because they owed Glazer a favor.
After reading this review, some of you may be thinking, “Man, I really need to see this movie! It sounds awful!” Please resist. Passion Play is a hopeless bore that deserves to be completely ignored by everyone. The film’s only bit of entertainment value is the final scene, which is so ludicrously dreadful that I expect it to become a YouTube phenomenon when the movie arrives on DVD. How Glazer raised enough money to get this movie made is a mystery.