One of the best signs that a film is a disaster is when the movie’s own star can’t seem to stop telling the world just how terrible it really is. Mickey Rourke at first had nice things to say about the film and particularly Megan Fox, calling her the best young actress he knew. Later he backtracked and qualified the statement about Fox. But his rantings about the film Passion Play have not been softened at all. He calls the film “Terrible” and a “Train wreck” while trying to assure us that he still loves director Mitch Glazer. We’d ask Mickey himself to write the review for the film here at Upcomingdiscs, but we tend to try and remain family friendly, and he’s not above dropping a few F bombs to make his point. I guess the job of evaluating this rather strange film falls to me, %$@(&.
Okay, I guess we’ll start with one of the most ridiculous stories I’ve ever seen made into a movie. Meet Nate (Rourke). He’s a washed-up trumpet player who used to be pretty well known. Now he plays in nightclubs owned by mobsters for small change, small change he likely as not turns into booze. Unfortunately, Nate couldn’t help but sleep with the boss’s wife. Now Happy (Murray) wants him dead. A couple of his thugs take him out to the middle of the desert for an old-school hit. Nate is miraculously saved by a strange group of white ninjas. He wanders the desert and stumbles into a sideshow where he sees Lily (Fox), a woman with bird’s wings. When he finds out they’re real, he breaks her out of the control of the abusive carnie and falls in love with her. But not before he sells her out to Happy in an attempt to trade her for his own life. Of course, he regrets the decision and wants to save Lily from Happy’s clutches, but she doesn’t necessarily want his help. You know, because of the whole betrayal thing. The ending leaves a few questions, but I’m not sure the answers are worth thinking much about. Mickey’s right. This is a train wreck. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The real trouble here is that the film doesn’t really connect at all with the viewer. The box art is incredibly misleading. It tells us that Nate and the girl are on the run from Happy, which never really happens. There is also no mention at all about the fantastic elements of Lily’s bird wings. I expected an action thriller here with a little romance on the side. The fantasy elements took me completely by surprise, and they don’t fit. It’s really an odd fantasy, but no one connected with the film really wants to own up to it.
An audience will accept almost any fantastic element if you prepare them enough for it. A girl with real wings is no great stretch to the fantasy crowd. What you can’t do is sucker in an entirely different audience and place them in an ultra-gritty feature, only to throw the fantasy element in out of left field. Audiences will buy your premise, but they hate it when you try to trick them. This movie tricked me, and it wasn’t a pleasant surprise at all.
Rourke plays a guy very much like we’ve seen him play before. There’s even a bit of the Wrestler character here. He’s moody and solemn. He puts in the best performance that he can. Megan Fox pretty much does the only thing she knows how to do. She pouts a lot and sits there trying to look pretty. Except here she has wings. There are a lot of references to her being an angel, and the metaphysical finale certainly plays into that element, but looks don’t make an angel. Bill Murray plays against type as Happy the gangster. I couldn’t help it, but it reminded me of an old Sanford And Son episode where a couple of thugs try to take over Fred’s rent party. At one point they chuckle and Fred says “You ain’t nothing but happy gangsters” or something to that effect. Murray tries, and he does a solid job here, but he’s showing his age and doesn’t make a convincing gangster boss. The real gangsters are the guys that try to get 30 bucks out of you to buy this movie.
Passion Play is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 20 mbps. When you consider there are no extras, it’s a definite sign of indifference from the studio that this movie sports such a minimalistic high-definition bit rate. There is nothing spectacular about the image. The picture is often dark or shot with lighting that I assume represents a dream-like quality. It’s also light on detail. The notable exception is the texture on the wings. In close-up they are quite convincing. Unfortunately, they appear to change size and color throughout the film. Black levels are barely average. It’s an unimpressive high-definition image presentation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is mostly flat with the only real dynamic presentation found in the score or source music. Dialog is weak, but you can follow it, for the most part.
It’s hard to talk about a movie like this without sounding a bit cold. Unfortunately, it’s a very cold movie for something that is intended to be about love. Mitch Glazer has written a handful of other movies, most notably the Murray Christmas tale Scrooged. But this is his first attempt at directing. He had a couple of seasoned actors to work with, and for the plethora of problems with the script he only has himself to blame. I get the idea this sounded a lot better in his head than it ended up on film. He certainly has a unique style going for him, but “I’m never going to get used to this”.