'Trance': Twisty plot concealed somewhere in the mist ★★ 1/2

'Trance'

'Trance' (April 9, 2013)

What can I tell you about the what-the … ? puzzler known as "Trance" that avoids spoilers while conveying some sense of its what-the … ?-ness?

It's a psychological thriller for those who found "Memento" too close to the linearity of "Go, Dog. Go!" Director Danny Boyle, working from a screenplay by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, combines elements of the high-end heist thriller (the object of everyone's affection is the Goya painting "Witches in the Air") and a bloody, sexy revenge bash. It begins sanely enough. Simon, played by James "Can You Ever Trust Me, Really?" McAvoy, is an auction house employee explaining to us how things work in an emergency situation — a theft, for example.

In the first of a million or so flashbacks, Boyle illustrates what went down when Simon teamed up with a gang of thieves to steal the Goya. Simon's conked on the head hard enough to suffer amnesia, which is inconvenient, since he no longer recalls where he hid the multimillion-dollar canvas. Perhaps the alluring hypnotherapist played by Rosario Dawson can shake loose Simon's memories. Maybe the gang leader, portrayed by that lean, mean menace machine Vincent Cassel, will be able to track the narrative better than the rest of us.

That's just the first 20 minutes or so, before the serious spoilers start spinning around. Reteaming with his "Slumdog Millionaire" cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, Boyle has crafted a deeply saturated nut case of a movie, each interior dominated by great pools of neon red or royal blue, no less than "Slumdog" wallowed in its nearly abstract use of color. For a while, "Trance" had me guessing, and more or less hooked. Then the violence, motivations, double-crosses and fantasy/reality tangles became tedious. There is, however, a scene involving Dawson, an electric shaver and a peculiar plot detail that can only be described as: What the … ?

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Trance' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating:
R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images and language)
Running time: 1:41
Opens: Friday

CHICAGO

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