As a first-grader I know frequently informs me, there are four fundamental forces in the universe: the strong nuclear force, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force and gravity. He doesn’t know about the fifth force, recently discovered and poorly understood, the one so powerful and so insidious that it has drawn Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox together to make an earnest, baffling and occasionally risible love story called “Passion Play.” Evidently a labor of love for writer-director Mitch Glazer (whose wife, Kelly Lynch, plays a likable supporting role), “Passion Play” was already halfway to becoming legendary when it screened last fall at Toronto. Some viewers there proclaimed it a masterpiece of exquisite badness, which isn’t entirely fair. Oh, it’s bad, all right — a hackneyed Bukowskian fantasy, set in a thoroughly imaginary noir universe inhabited by hard-drinkin’ jazzmen and worldly hookers — but that’s not half as surprising as the fact that it got made in the first place.
Rourke plays an ex-junkie trumpet player who cheats death in the Mexican desert with the help of a tribe of ghostly Indians — you only wish I were kidding — and keeps falling in love with the wrong girl. (The character is inspired, I’m pretty sure, by the late, great Chet Baker.) Fox plays the last of those girls, who has wings. Yes, wings, with feathers and everything. It’s a miracle or it’s a metaphor or it’s a sex thing or something, and it points you right at the final plot twist, which I won’t tell you but you might figure out anyway. The movie also has Bill Murray as a sinister, milk-drinking gangster named Happy, who isn’t happy. He injects a note of comic menace and acts rings around the two principals, while demonstrating (once again) that he’ll appear in absolutely anything as long as the checks clear. This is all supposed to be mythical and hard-boiled and deeply American, except that it was shot, student-film-style, in a lot of unpromising suburban locations on the fringes of Albuquerque. The net effect is as if someone had set out to imitate a David Lynch movie without ever having seen one, or as if it had been directed by Wim Wenders (which is approximately the same thing).