Of all the films at FrightFest 2013 my expectations were at their highest for The Hypnotist, the Swedish crime thriller adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by Lars Kepler the pen name for married writers Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril.
Few in this country can have escaped the Nordic noir invasion which has taken place infiltrating our homes with books, TV shows and movies from Scandinavia with such crime classics as The Killing, Borgen, Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters and The Dragon Tattoo series all of which are epic adult thrillers with complex characters and twisting plotlines that keep you guessing right up until the end.
Sadly when stacked against this impressive body of brilliance The Hypnotist feels hugely lacking in all areas not only as a story but as a film playing out as a flaccid predictable whodunit with a ludicrous hook that simply doesn’t work.
Opening on the gruesome murder of a family at two separate locations the police find only one member alive although the fact that he is unconscious means they are bereft of any leads.
On recommendation from a doctor the investigating officer contacts disgraced hypnotist Erik Maria Bark (Mikael Persbrandt) who has the power to hypnotise anyone and take them back to any point to question them even if they are unconscious.
The answers Erik gets lead to even more mysteries however and place him and his own family in danger from the killer who will stop at nothing to protect their secret.
Although there are some solid performances especially from the grizzled and brow beaten Persbrandt the simple fact is everything in The Hypnotist we have seen all before and better not only in other Nordic dramas but even on daytime TV cop shows.
Director Lasse Hallström who although a native Swede has made a whole host of Hollywood movies from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and perhaps this time spent in La La land has led to the over simplification of the story and the lack of gritty realism that usually infuses so many of the classic crime tales in this genre.
Although packed with twists and turns most are quite obvious from the off and Hallström also seems to have a real problem with pacing as the end, which I hear from sources is different from the book, drags on and on way past the point of anyone actually caring what happens.
Many may say it’s unfair to compare The Hypnotist to the many amazing films that have been produced by Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark in recent years however the source material had all the elements to make a mesmerizing movie. Unfortunately in Hallström hands all The Hypnotist did was send me to sleep.