Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment, straight from Southern California.
Hosted by John Horn
Airs Temporarily on hiatus so that our staff can help out our colleagues in the KPCC newsroom and on our other shows.
Arts & Entertainment

FIFA's self-serving movie, 'United Passions,' fails to draw fans

Sam Neill, left, plays Joao Havelange and Tim Roth is Sepp Blatter in the FIFA-financed film,
Sam Neill, left, plays Joao Havelange and Tim Roth is Sepp Blatter in the FIFA-financed film, "United Passions."
Screen Media FIlms

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

If you don't think that FIFA needed to make a movie about its history...well, you're definitely not alone. But the organization indeed financed "United Passions," a film that looks at how the beleaguered international soccer juggernaut known as FIFA came to be.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the $32 million film had a rough ride at the box office. How rough? Opening in 10 theaters across the country last weekend, “United Passions” grossed less than $700 total, for a per-screen average of about one customer per screening.

But that’s a better showing than critics gave the film: not a single reviewer liked the movie, for a score of zero on Rotten Tomatoes. It was showing locally at the Laemmle North Hollywood 7, and we sent Frame contributor Collin Friesen to see what all the non-fuss was about.

Interview Highlights:

Can you give us a summary of this fine film?

[sighs] If I have to. Imagine if someone took the FIFA Wikipedia page, took out most of the bad stuff, and then cut the information into dialogue-sized bits, glued that into script, and hired some actors who clearly needed a paycheck. In its defense, I will say that it's pretty to look at, and if you want to watch white men in suits saying exactly what they're thinking, then this is the movie for you.

It's not a bad cast — Tim Roth, Sam Neill, Gerard any of those actors have anything to say in the film about FIFA's alleged legendary corruption?

Not really. The closest we ever come is a scene where there's a meeting with the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter.

Now the former president.

That's right, played by Tim Roth. He tells his members very politely that there's a new sheriff in town and they're going to have to abide by his way of thinking. Spoiler alert: the climax of the movie has Sepp winning another term as FIFA president, despite having some people vote against him. I'm serious, that's the climax of the movie.

We've mentioned that there's not a positive review of this film to be found, so what are the critics saying.

Here's a quick sample: tedious, squirm-inducing, deplorable, badly-paced, proof of corporate insanity, and, my personal favorite, unwatchable cinematic excrement.

As opposed to watchable cinematic excrement. Was there a crowd when you went to go check it out?

I actually thought I was going to be sitting there alone, but there were about eight people, which was surprising. Although, it was discount seniors' day, so that might have goosed the numbers a little bit.

Since the movie was doing so badly at the box office, did the Laemmle operators explain why they didn't pull it [mid-run]? 

I understand it's not in theaters any more, and I did talk to the head of Laemmle Theaters, Greg Laemmle. He said he couldn't go into any details about the deal that he had with the film's distributors, but I think most people would assume that this is being four-walled — in other words, FIFA paid for the film, and they're also paying to actually put it into theaters.

Greg also said that no one should think that this is a FIFA PR pushback against their most recent scandals — the movie was years in the making, and the release date was set months ago to coincide with the Women's World Cup — long before the most recent set of indictments were handed out.

Last question: does this fall into the "so bad it's good" category, like "Showgirls"?

I will not have you disparage "Showgirls." [laughs] No, think of it as a David versus Goliath kind of story, but told from the giant's point of view, with an ending that just happens before Goliath and the other Philistines are indicted on multiple corruption charges. And if I can just say one more thing — this movie played at the Cannes Film Festival last year. There may be an FBI investigation of FIFA right now, but the French authorities should really take a look at how that happened.

Get more stories like this

Delivered every Thursday, The Frame weekly email features the latest in Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment.