Cinematic Releases: United Passions

The poorly timed dramatics of soccer politics play out in the dreadful United Passions.

"And the award for the most
poorly timed movie of all time goes to...."
When we think of historically based inspirational sports dramas, films like Hoosiers, Chariots of Fire, Remember the Titans, Rocky, Miracle and many others come to mind.  These are movies that transcend sports interests that are instantly relatable tales of overcoming the odds with a little determination and drive.  These are movies that prove if they can do it, we can do it too.  Even if our proclivities don’t lie with sports, sports movies no doubt do have the capacity to inspire viewers to press on with fulfilling their own hopes and dreams.  Inspirational sports dramas, while often told through the formula of an underdog making it big, still work as compelling stories that still manage to make us care about the characters and their uphill battle towards success.  United Passions is not that movie.

The wildly historically inaccurate FIFA financed and penned soccer league hagiography which recently went down in the news as the biggest box office flop in U.S. history presents a sports movie of sorts in which the heroes are the executives and the playing field consists of suits making deals at round tables behind closed doors.  Costing around $35 million to produce, the film opened in ten theaters nationwide and video-on-demand platforms only to rake in $918.  Released just days after fourteen FIFA executives were indicted by the FBI for unethical practices including but not limited to bribery, fraud and racketeering, the ironic ill-advised timing of United Passions as a movie consists of two hours of soulless dead space with little actual soccer gameplay and a lot of zombified performances by its unlucky cast.  There’s nothing resembling a narrative plot anywhere in this thing that’s closer to a corporate company promotional you should see playing in the corporate FIFA headquarters lobby instead of theaters saddled with releasing it. 

"We are patiently awaiting that
pizza delivery."
Every actor who sets foot in this thing, save for the haggard and rotund Gerard Depardieu who carries over the unwanted sliminess he purported in Welcome to New York, is completely wasted by the movie.  Poor Sam Neill goes through the motions and Tim Roth miscast as Sepp Blatter either needs to fire his agent or stop taking whatever he can get.  The once great actor in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction now holds the title for starring in Grace of Monaco and United Passions, two of the absolute worst films in recent memory back to back.  It is indeed a very sad time to be Tim Roth who reportedly begged the question everyone is who watches it: where’s the corruption everyone knew about in the script?  Even its director has gone on the record expressing his shame for association with the project, though he had to know he was going to get Leni Riefenstahl comparisons from the moment he walked on the set. 

Very much the product of corporate whitewashing intended to dispel negativity currently surrounding FIFA’s serpentine public image, United Passions could have been condescendingly disingenuous propaganda if the insidious intentions of its makers weren’t so cynically obvious.   Outside of the controversy and notoriety its engendered, as a film it has a harder time qualifying as such than say Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.  There’s a lot of preexisting soccer footage, a disconnected vignette concerning children playing soccer in the slums and scenery of bigwigs in office settings talking amongst themselves but none of it comes together to produce anything remotely resembling a watchable movie.  If United Passions will leave you with anything, certainly unintentional hilarity not among its offerings, it’s the knowledge that The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence is not in fact the worst film of 2015. 

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-Andrew Kotwicki