Rosario Dawson is very briefly, but stunningly, nude in Danny Boyle’s art theft thriller “Trance.”
This is not a small subject. In 2013, female nudity is by no means de rigueur in R-rated movies the way it once seemed to be – especially among actresses whose careers are prominent enough to be able to say “no” or to negotiate exactly how much clothing will be worn at the crucial time.
I’m guessing that Dawson’s prominence thus far – and especially in this movie – might have given her the clout to demur politely but firmly.
She didn’t. The movie, then, doesn’t begin to deserve the performer’s openness and generosity (or exploitive cynicism, take your pick).
She’s far and away the best thing in the movie under any and all wardrobe circumstances, but the movie is visually bedazzling rubbish and mumbo jumbo. Think of it as ambitious, high-gloss Euro-trash.
James McAvoy plays an employee at a fancy-schmancy auction house who is on duty when Vincent Cassel and other thugs barge in to filch one of Goya’s late masterworks. We’re told in increments how much the bloody thing is worth to acquisitive collectors – $22 million, $27 million, more. But after that, its fate is a mystery we’re supposed to be following avidly underneath a lot of confusing and dreary narrative folderol.
Think of the movie as the shotgun wedding of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” and Norman Jewison’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” and carefully consider whether you want to attend its nuptials when it’s obvious before it’s over that the marriage is speeding toward a noisy and slovenly annulment.
So there’s this Goya, you see.
Will the criminal conspirators be able to put their greedy fingers on it? Well, maybe they can if they ask hypnotherapist Dawson to hypnotize amnesiac McAvoy into remembering where he put some $30 million worth of genius daubings.
But then maybe, along with it, McAvoy will have an affair with the beautiful hypnotherapist, just like the thuggish crook (Cassel) did, thereby leading to this memorably hilarious line from the New Yorker review by Anthony Lane: “When the Lord God forbade his worshippers to bow down before any graven image, Dawson’s face was exactly the kind of thing He had in mind. No other star [besides Dawson] can boast such sculpted features – except Vincent Cassel, who is pretty damn graven himself. When the two of them make love in ‘Trance,’ one strong bone structure pressed against another, it’s like a clash of major religions. What if they had a family? The kids would be positively Cubist.”
Plot switches and complications pile up. The matter of who did what to whom and when leads to such philosophical script apothegms as “everyone is greedy” and “forgetting is keeping secrets from yourself.” It also leads to the brutal sight of a man shot in the groin with rare visual specificity and another fellow maneuvering to extricate himself from a burning car.
All of this narrative mishmash is told by virtuoso director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours”) with a maximum of visual style that doesn’t begin to disguise the film’s complex tedium and annoying, self-immolating vacuity.
A good part of the problem is that in this trio of stars, gooey-eyed McAvoy doesn’t begin to belong on the same screen with the Aztec profiles of Dawson and Cassel, so that it all seems like noir silliness and not a diabolically ingenious psychological thriller.
It won’t put you to sleep (that sickeningly precise gunshot would wake anyone up). But unless you bring along your own hypnotherapist to work on your ability to remember, you’ll very soon be forgetting you saw this thing at all, except for two or three extremely conspicuous details.
As this movie would have it, then, “Trance” will very quickly transform itself inside your head into a secret you keep from yourself.
The human mind is indeed a wonderful thing. And something that is indeed a terrible thing to waste.
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, James McAvoy
Director: Danny Boyle
Running time: 101 minutes.
Rating: R for nudity, sex, rough language and graphic violence.
The Lowdown: The search for a stolen Goya masterwork involves some brutal crooks, a lot of betrayal and a very beautiful hypnotherapist.