Quantum Sneak: A Passion To Kill (1994)

Oh boy! Dave gets sweaty with Scotty Bak in a neo-noir that doesn’t quite cut it.

If there’s a single characteristic that defines Scott Bakula, it’s likely to be ‘wholesome’. His name was etched into popular culture via the TV show Quantum Leap, where his ‘gee-whiz’ time-traveller, Sam Beckett, leaped across the space-time continuum to right a series of historical wrongs. However, after a five season stint playing Mr. Virtuous, it’s easy to see why the mousy-haired Missourian had the urge to flex his acting sinews in something more salacious – even if the results are tepid rather than red-hot.

A supporting role as a psychiatrist in Richard Rush’s The Color of Night (1994) showed Bakula’s desire for projects that were more grown-up – and coincidentally, he would essay the role of a shrink in his next feature, A PASSION TO KILL. Here, Bakula is David: an unassuming singleton with a good career and a beachfront property who becomes romantically entangled with Diana (Chelsea Field), the new wife of his best friend, Jerry (John Getz). Alas, Jerry’s days are numbered, so when David finds his squash partner’s butchered body on his kitchen floor, the mysterious Diana must surely be the prime suspect…

With its gentle sax, billowing cigarette smoke, and a provocative femme fatale, Rick King delivered this neo-noir in a decade that would see him hyperactively skipping through genres such as martial arts (Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992)), sci-fi (Terminal Justice (1996)), and crime (Catherine’s Grove (1997)). Despite a career highlight that saw him create the story for Point Break (1991), his directing resume has all the hallmarks of a jobbing journeyman who never quite manages to thrill. A Passion to Kill encapsulates that, as even with a script from the prolific author William Delligan (who passed away the following year aged only fifty-one), it misses the attributes of the better, similar films of the era: the giddy eroticism of J.S. Cardone’s Black Day Blue Night (1995), and the twisting intrigue of Graeme Clifford’s Past Tense (1994), for example.

One of Tinseltown’s most enduring marriages might have spawned from this feature [1], but as Diana asks her new-found lover, “do you ever loosen up, or are you always this tightly wrapped?”. Bakula feels miscast, and he rarely seems at ease with the material, coming across as docile and passive – a mix at odds with the potency that his character thirsts for. Field, on the other hand, is appealing as the psychotic temptress – although it’s Sheila Kelley as David’s ex-girlfriend, Beth, who brings some punch to the party, valiantly adding a little depth and complexity to Delligan’s back-of-a-beermat plot.

A Passion to Kill opened in New York on 4th November 1994 for a limited theatrical run before finding its home on video.

Produced by Bruce Cohn Curtis and also known as ‘Rules of Obsession’.

USA ● 1994 ● Thriller ● 95mins

Scott Bakula, Chelsea Field, Sheila Kelley, John Getz, Rex Smith ● Dir. Rick King ● Wri. William Delligan

[1] Bakula and Field began dating during production, and remain together over a quarter of a century later.

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