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With: Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Kelly Lynch, Rhys Ifans, Rory Cochrane, Brian Doyle-Murray
Written by: Mitch Glazer
Directed by: Mitch Glazer
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality/nudity, violence and brief drug use
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/10/2010

Passion Play (2011)

1 Star (out of 4)

A Wing and a Prayer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Invite me to a movie that stars both Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke and I'll meet you in line. Throw in Megan Fox and, well, at least she's easy on the eyes. Anyway, I'll be there. Unfortunately, the meeting of these two legendary guys and one terrific-looking girl comes across not just as peculiar, but as peculiarly bad. It's one of those total misfires that wanders so far off the track that you're left scratching your head; what were they thinking?

OK. I don't want to give away the major plot device for those that are actually going to see this, so I'll skirt around it. Rourke plays Nate, a jazz trumpeter who is somehow involved with gangsters; Rourke doesn't actually play any music here, and even the one or two music sequences shows him blowing into the horn, with no sound coming out. Anyway, one night, he gets bashed on the head and driven out to the desert to be shot. Just before that happens, a group of Ninjas or guardian angels save him. They're never heard from again, and they leave Nate to find his own way out of the desert.

After some time, he finds a carnival and becomes fascinated with Lily (Fox), a sideshow freak. He offers to rescue her, and after some hemming and hawing, she agrees. Nick then turns around and offers her to gangster "Happy" Shannon (Murray) in exchange for the price on his head (I think). She feels betrayed, but still loves Nate and agrees to stay with Happy so that Nate won't be hurt. But after brooding for a very long time, Nate decides to rescue her.

The story doesn't make much sense, and doesn't really create any kind of dramatic arc or emotional punch. Murray is fine, as usual, but Rourke seems miscast. The visuals don't help much. Somehow the brilliant cinematographer Christopher Doyle shot this, and his images came out disconnected and flat, as if they were put together wrong; or maybe it's just the odd, leaden, nonsensical pace of this thing that just render Doyle's images useless.

Making his directorial debut is veteran screenwriter Mitch Glazer, whose work includes Scrooged (1988), Three of Hearts (1993), Great Expectations (1998), and The Recruit (2003). Some of his footage seems planned out in advance, and other pieces seem tacked on quickly, such as a cameo by Murray's older brother, character actor Brian Doyle Murray; his job is to tell Nate that there are no jobs for him, but the shot looks like it was set up in front of a piece of black fabric in somebody's garage. Kelly Lynch, Rhys Ifans, and Rory Cochrane are also here, but are of little use.

Perhaps it's the attempt at the odd, dreamlike quality that makes Passion Play so weird and off-putting. Dreamlike is very hard to do and only the greatest directors in history have ever been able to pull it off; when it's done badly, the effect is to make you wonder if you really just saw what you saw. Maybe lovers of bad movies will turn this into a cult film with the challenge: you have to see this and tell me what you think.

Image Entertainment released this on Blu-Ray with only a trailer as an extra. Just as well, I suppose. If I was involved with this I'd hate to have to explain myself.

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