×

The Hypnotist

Though it marks a return to Swedish filmmaking after 25 years of English-language features, Lasse Hallstrom's gruesome thriller "The Hypnotist" feels like a rather awkward fit for the director of schmaltzy, heartfelt fare such as "Chocolat" and "Dear John."

With:
With: Tobias Zilliacus, Mikael Persbrandt, Lena Olin,Helena af Sandeberg, Jonatan Bokman, Oscar Pettersson, Eva Melander, Anna Azcarate, Johan Hallstrom, Goran Thorell, Jan Waldekranz, Emma Mehonic, Tomas Magnusson, Nadja Josephson.

Though it marks Lasse Hallstrom’s return to Swedish filmmaking after 25 years of English-language features, gruesome thriller “The Hypnotist” feels like a rather awkward fit for the director of schmaltzy, heartfelt fare such as “Chocolat” and “Dear John.” Generic-looking adaptation of Lars Kepler’s bestseller stars Tobias Zilliacus and Mikael Persbrandt as a cop and the titular protag, respectively, who attempt to solve a multiple homicide in convoluted fashion. Already out in Scandinavia, where it’s doing respectable but not record-breaking biz, Sweden’s foreign-language Oscar submission is still looking for a U.S. distributor.

Awkward teen Josef (Jonatan Bokman) is the miraculous survivor of a massacre that took the lives of his father, mother and sister (an older half-sister, living elsewhere, apparently wasn’t one of the targets). Because he’s in a total shock and has lost a lot of blood from countless stab wounds, Josef can’t be questioned.

Popular on Variety

This leads weary-looking judicial police officer Joona Linna (Finnish-born thesp Zilliacus) to resignedly contact a disgraced hypnotherapist, Erik Maria Bark (Persbrandt), in the hope that he might be able to make contact with Josef and help Linna make some progress on the case, which looks like an amateurish hack job despite the lack of any DNA evidence or fingerprint traces.

The setup closely follows the novel written by Kepler, the nom de plume of husband-and-wife duo Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril (he also wrote “The Director,” about Bergman’s shoot of “Winter Light”). As with Stieg Larsson’s popular “Millennium” trilogy, what at first seems a small, singular case opens something of a trapdoor to a much larger maze of events set in the past and present. Yet the screenplay by Paolo Vacirca (whose only previous solo writing credit was on 2005 direct-to-vid title “The Secret”) seems unaware of this double-fan-like structure, more often than not obscuring rather than facilitating an understanding of how things are connected.

The script also lacks a coherent tone or clear purpose, splicing in a scare here, trying a little character development there — notably with the exploration of Bark’s family (Hallstrom’s actress wife, Lena Olin, plays Bark’s spouse), though there’s no look at Linna’s private life to balance things out. What finally drives the narrative along is the murder mystery, which is finally resolved in a long, very talky stretch that is pretty much the opposite of “show, don’t tell.”

What Hallstrom brings to the table is a solid direction of the actors and several gorgeous, high-angle shots that firmly place the story in its Swedish context, particularly Stockholm. But his work with rookie feature cinematographer Mattias Montero is otherwise just OK, allowing a lot of light into the lens and often flattening the picture, with a subsequent loss of detail in the darker areas. Editing by Thomas Tang and Sebastian Amundsen is uneven at best; the rapid, disorientating cuts used to signify flashbacks or visions stand in jarring contrast to the otherwise unenergetic approach to the material. Score is serviceable but pretty character-free.

Though he stands out here only due to of his conspicuous lack of personality, Linna will be back in 2014’s “The Paganini Contract,” helmed by Kjell Sundvall. At least there’s room for improvement.

The Hypnotist

Sweden

Production: A Svensk Filmindustri release and presentation of a Svensk Filmindustri, Sonet Film production, in association with Filmpool Nord. (International sales: Svensk Filmindustri, Stockholm.) Produced by Borje Hansson, Peter Possne, Bertil Olsson. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Screenplay, Paolo Vacirca, based on the novel by Lars Kepler.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Mattias Montero; editors, Thomas Tang, Sebastian Amundsen; music, Oscar Fogelstrom; production designer, Lasse Westfelt; costume designer, Karin Sundvall; sound (Dolby Digital), Aleksander Karshikoff; special effects supervisor, Johan Harnesk; stunt coordinator, Kimmo Rajala; line producer, Serina Bjornbom; associate producer, Per-Erik Svensson; assistant director, Mattias Ohlsson; casting, Imor Hermann. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 29, 2012. Running time: 119 MIN.

Cast: With: Tobias Zilliacus, Mikael Persbrandt, Lena Olin,Helena af Sandeberg, Jonatan Bokman, Oscar Pettersson, Eva Melander, Anna Azcarate, Johan Hallstrom, Goran Thorell, Jan Waldekranz, Emma Mehonic, Tomas Magnusson, Nadja Josephson.

More Scene

  • Jamie Foxx - Excellence in the

    Jamie Foxx Honored by Leonardo DiCaprio at American Black Film Festival Honors

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Morgan Freeman made surprise appearances at the American Black Film Festival Honors ceremony on Sunday night. The “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” actor presented Jamie Foxx with the excellence in the arts award while Freeman announced the movie of the year, which went to “Just Mercy.” Hosted by comedian Deon Cole, [...]

  • Logan Lerman Jordan Peele Al Pacino

    Al Pacino and Carol Kane Had a ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ Reunion on the ‘Hunters’ Set

    Nearly 45 years after Al Pacino and Carol Kane appeared in Sidney Lumet’s classic film “Dog Day Afternoon,” an Amazon Prime Video series about Nazi-hunters in 1977 New York City has brought them back together. Go figure. “I’m proud to be working with him again,” Kane told Variety at the “Hunters” premiere on Wednesday night [...]

  • Anya Taylor Joy Emma Premiere

    Anya Taylor-Joy on Playing Jane Austen's Clever, Callous Protagonist in 'Emma'

    It was an evening of elegance at the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features’ “Emma” on Tuesday night. The red carpet was lined with pastel floral arrangements at the DGA Theater, priming visitors to be transported to the ornate pageantry of Georgian-era England, as depicted in this new adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic tale. Anya [...]

  • Tom Holland Chris Pratt Onward Premiere

    Tom Holland and Chris Pratt Show Off Real-Life Bond at Pixar's 'Onward' Premiere

    Pixar’s new movie “Onward” marks a reunion of sorts for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The two actors, who both have ties to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and most recently teamed in “Avengers: Endgame” as Spider-Man and Star-Lord, play brothers in the animated fantasy adventure. Their friendship has become a highlight of “Onward’s” promotional tour [...]

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph

    Da’Vine Joy Randolph Praises Hulu's 'High Fidelity' for Telling a Realistic New York Story

    If HBO’s “Girls” characterized a certain type of young, disaffected millennial, fumbling cluelessly around a gentrifying Brooklyn, and if “Sex and the City” used Manhattan as a tantalizing playground for a class of well-connected, glamorous and decidedly 90s-bound women, both shows had one thing in common: they were painfully, inevitably white. “We’re gonna fix that!,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content