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'Trance' review: Flawed but compelling Danny Boyle

James McAvoy performs a scene on the set

James McAvoy performs a scene on the set of "Trance." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Like his contemporaries Ang Lee and Michael Winterbottom -- and unlike a lot of directors -- Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire," "127 Hours") never makes the same movie twice. He also seems intent, like Lee, to eventually make a movie in every conceivable genre -- or, in the case of "Trance," several at once.

Starring James McAvoy as a London auction-house employee who forgets the whereabouts of the painting he helped heist, Boyle's latest story employs perhaps one -- or two, or three -- too many twists, which may leave viewers with the sense that there's a plot party going on to which they may have not been invited.

For much of the film, however, Boyle's innate flair as a dramatist and conjurer keeps one clamped to the armrests. (He has said that much of what is in "Trance" consists of what he had to leave out of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.) Simon (McAvoy) suffers a blow to the head during the robbery of the London auction house where he's employed, and forgets where he left the Goya (an intimation of things to come). Finding that torture and threats aren't helping jog Simon's memory, the menacing gangster Franck (Vincent Cassel) suggests that Simon see a psychotherapist, who will help recover the information.

It's an absurd idea, of course, but it does get Rosario Dawson into the movie, which is an excellent idea. Even as the rest of the film takes flight from sense and sanity, Dawson's slightly feral Elizabeth keeps matters rooted in the sexy, supple and enjoyably craven. Obviously, "Trance" does not achieve success on every level. But movies that do often lack the energy and deliciousness that Boyle delivers here.

PLOT A crooked art dealer in league with a criminal ring forgets where he left the stolen masterpiece.

RATING R (violence, vulgarity, gore, sexual content, adult content, nudity)

CAST James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson


BOTTOM LINE Some will feel cheated, if not strangled, by the knotty plotline, but director Danny Boyle revels in style, tension and Rosario Dawson's face. Could be worse.

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