A female sportswear designer leads a double life as a hooker but things get more complicated when a street preacher decides to try and save her soul.
Ken Russell’s 1984 film Crimes of Passion is one of those movies that is so barking mad that it is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to analysing what it is about, let alone how you begin to recommend it to somebody, but at the heart of it there is an exploration of sex and relationships that, had it been handled by another director (apart from possibly David Cronenberg) it probably wouldn’t be quite so thought-provoking and out there.
And whatever that means is anyone’s guess, although if you want to cast a sexual deviant with a perverted sense of religious righteousness then Anthony Perkins is probably the obvious choice, if not a little too obvious
Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone) plays Joanna Crane, a successful sportswear designer by day but at night she becomes China Blue, the most popular hooker on her particular patch. John Laughlin (The Rock) is Bobby Grady, who owns a home security store but takes an extra job investigating Joanna as her boss believes she is involved in industrial espionage. Bobby is y (Annie Potts – Ghostbusters), his high school sweetheart, but the spark has gone out of their marriage and, fed up trying to please his frigid wife, Bobby begins to develop feelings for Joanna/China as he discovers her secret and wants that level of excitement in his life. So far, so straightforward but China is also being pursued by demented street preacher Reverend Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins – Psycho), who has issues of his own and wants to save China’s soul and save her from herself.
However, despite the dark and seedy undertones Crimes of Passion is a neon-lit celebration of sexual liberation and emotional disconnect as we follow China on her nightly adventures satisfying all of her regular customers and seemingly enjoying it
Of course, there is a briefly mentioned Freudian reason why she is the way she is but the film never goes too deeply into the psychology of her character, instead focusing more on the relationship between Bobby and Amy – a pair of performances from John Laughlin and Annie Potts that veer from heartfelt confessional to looking like they can barely contain their laughter whilst trying to deliver some truly absurd dialogue – and giving us plenty of a raving mad Anthony Perkins finally succumbing to the fact that he’ll always play weirdos despite his obvious range and talent; even the ending of the film echoes Perkins’ better known screen persona and that character’s eventual downfall (and the clarity of the 2K restoration does give it away before it happens if you look).
Crimes of Passion is a film rich in the religious metaphor that fills most of Ken Russell’s work and the sexual content is as comically over-the-top as the two lead performances, full of nonsensical smut such as Perkins’ Reverend Shayne brandishing a huge razor-sharp (it must be – he manages to cut through ropes with it) dildo, and even the stiff turn from John Laughlin doesn’t manage to bring down the air of mischievous glee that Ken Russell seems to be sprinkling liberally throughout the madness. Despite some of the places it goes to occasionally it isn’t a downbeat film and it is easy to see why Arrow chose it to go through their restoration process as it does sit quite comfortably amongst their titles of cult oddities and looks great, but is it actually a good film? Still not sure about that but it is enjoyable… sort of.