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‘Passion’ Chills; ‘Getaway’ Crashes; ‘Delight’: Movies

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Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- “Passion,” really? How about “Cold Calculation”?

There’s little beyond rapacity in the hearts of the icy, smiling trio (Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Karoline Herfurth) who dominate Brian De Palma’s icily sleek story of corporate backstabbing and romantic obsession.

They lie, cheat and murder to come out on top, professionally and sexually, at the international ad agency where they compete.

But the passion is there in the luxuriant music (by Pino Donaggio, who scored “Carrie” and “Dressed to Kill,” among other De Palma films), and in the sensuality of the camera work and editing. Heat seems to rise off the cool glass surfaces of the Berlin tower where the women work.

Though Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” is, as so often, the director’s point of reference, “Passion” is very now, with its spike-heeled executives, workplace harassment, viral videos and damning images uploaded to smartphones.

Despite a structure built on suspense and a generous dollop of nightmares, the corporate machinations suggest something closer to a dark comedy than to a thriller. You don’t walk away chilled, as you do from “Vertigo,” but tickled by the coldness and lifted by the beauty of the style.

Only the demented could find much affection for the gorgeous harpies who motor the plot. But for the still-great voyeur who can’t take his camera’s eye off them, I’ve got nothing but love.

“Passion,” from eOne Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **** (Seligman)

Train Wreck

“White House Down” all is forgiven! “Getaway” crashes into theaters as the summer’s worst movie.

Brainlessly directed by producer Courtney Solomon, “Getaway” is a failed gimmick, a movie built almost entirely around car chases, crashes and the cinematic cliches that attend them (diving pedestrians get more screen time than third-billed Jon Voight).

A barely trying Ethan Hawke slums his way through his second rotten film in as many months (after “The Purge”) as a disgraced race car driver speeding to save the life of his kidnapped wife (Rebecca Budig).

Instructed in every twist and turn by a cell-phoned Voice (Voight), Hawke and his unwilling passenger (Selena Gomez, petulant and annoying) plow through the crowded streets of a Bulgarian town, leaving scores of wrecked police cars and upended market stands in their wake.

Chaotically orchestrated with quick cuts and close-ups, “Getaway” is impossible to follow, unrelentingly tedious and defiantly implausible.

Hawke’s car, a tricked-out Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake, emerges from endless catastrophic smash-ups with nary a dent.

His career choices, not so much.

“Getaway,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: No stars. (Evans)

‘Afternoon Delight’

Half the title of Jill Soloway’s “Afternoon Delight” is accurate, since some of the movie occurs before sundown.

A disingenuous whiner, “Afternoon Delight” stars Kathryn Hahn (leading a game cast) as Rachel, a reasonably well-off, unsatisfied wife and mother in Los Angeles’s trendy Silver Lake enclave.

Depressed over her rote, sexless marriage to busy, distracted techie Jeff (Josh Radnor) and apparently deriving no joy from her preschool son much less the catty mean-girl moms of her social group, Rachel decides to stir things up with a group outing to a local strip club.

Enter McKenna (Juno Temple), the lost-girl ecdysiast whose lap dance revives Rachel’s stagnant drives, both maternal and sexual.

Writer/director Soloway, whose fine work on “Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara” promised more than is delivered here, concocts an implausible situation when Rachel invites the pansexual Lolita into her home as the kid’s nanny.

“Afternoon Delight” quickly spins into grumpy complaints and incessant self-pity.

The film’s initial concern for the pole-dancing sex worker, with its veneer of sisterhood and empowerment, dissolves into manipulative plot mechanics. Once McKenna serves her purpose to repair marital harmony, she’s dispensed with, like so many soggy dollar bills.

“Afternoon Delight,” from The Film Arcade, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ** (Evans)


What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard’s fall preview and New York Weekend.

To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com. and Craig Seligman at cseligman@mindspring.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.