‘Spinning Man’ Goes Nowhere We Haven’t Been Before
The new film “Spinning Man” opens with enough promise that one temporarily forgets that we’re in “TV episode turned feature film” zone, and by the mid-way point, it’s understandable to think that most viewers will be able to predict where the supposedly twisty narrative is going, while completely realizing that they’ve seen this sort of material on their television screens more times than they can count. It’s sort of baffling how talent like Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, and Minnie Driver get sucked into thoroughly routine efforts like this one. And this isn’t to say that “Spinning Man” is a terrible film — far from it. It’s just so average in every manner that it becomes more frustrating than anything else.
Smoothly and efficiently directed by the prolific Swedish television helmer Simon Kaijser, it’s really no surprise that “Spinning Man” feels like a pilot for a new procedural program, as all of the Hitchockian elements are firmly in place and there’s a confidence to the craft. There’s the possibly falsely accused family man (Pearce), the dogged detective (Brosnan), the suspicious wife (Driver), the wise-cracking lawyer (the ubiquitous Clark Gregg,) and some fresh and gorgeous female faces, including Odeya Rush, Alexandra Shipp, and Annie Monroe. It seems that a local college student has gone missing, and Pearce’s esteemed professor is the chief suspect, as his stories aren’t adding up, and more and more circumstantial evidence is building. But did he, or didn’t he?
Pearce, as always, is a pleasure to watch on-screen, with those wonderful wrinkles giving his face so much texture, and while his character is telegraphed a bit too early because of some directorial choices, he does a credible job of never fully allowing the audience to know if he’s guilty or not. Coming on the heels of last year’s much better thriller “The Foreigner,” Brosnan feels a bit sleepy here, especially when considering his fiery and impassioned work on the Jackie Chan team-up. Driver is always a welcome screen presence, even if her role is something that’s beneath her talents. Everyone delivers the professional goods but nobody seems terribly excited about the material, while Jean-Paul Wall’s moody score hits some cool audio notes.
Shot with a blue-green tint for no particular reason, Kaijser and cinematographer Polly Morgan don’t bring anything new to the table from a visual perspective, but at the same time, are able to whip up some smart framing decisions and a few moments of subtle style. But screenwriter Matthew Aldrich (“Coco,” “Cleaner”), in adapting the novel “The Spinning Man” by George Harrar, isn’t able to elevate the potentially pulpy material with anything overly exciting or novel; this is the same sort of slick and predictable programmer that audiences have been subjected too in semi-regular doses for decades. And while familiarity can be comforting and sometimes satisfying in a relatively low-stakes game of Whodunit? such as this, someone needs to go the extra mile in at least one department, because it felt as if the storytellers weren’t being pushed or inspired to deliver anything outside of the ordinary.
“Spinning Man” opens April 6 in select theaters.