Combustible Celluloid
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With: Guy Pearce, Minnie Driver, Odeya Rush, Alexandra Shipp, Pierce Brosnan, Clark Gregg, Freya Tingley, Jamie Kennedy, Sterling Beaumon, RJ Walker, Carlo Rota
Written by: Matthew Aldrich, George Harrar
Directed by: Simon Kaijser
MPAA Rating: R for some language including sexual references
Running Time: 100
Date: 04/06/2018

Spinning Man (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Truth Decay

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This little thriller, part lurid potboiler and part philosophical quandary, plays like a sturdy little "B" movie; it won't change the world, but it may keep late-night viewers from changing channels.

In Spinning Man, philosophy professor Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) is happily married to Ellen (Minnie Driver), with two kids. However, they have recently moved, to escape some kind of dark past. Trouble arises anew when a beautiful young student, Joyce (Odeya Rush), goes missing, and the few clues that the police have turned up point toward Evan.

An unruffled detective, Malloy (Pierce Brosnan), questions him and the more Evan tries to sustain his innocence, the guiltier he looks. Meanwhile, a pretty student, Anna (Alexandra Shipp) seems to be flirting with him, making the situation even more difficult. Finally, Evan must answer a question that he has posed in class many times: what is the truth and what is one's perception of the truth?

Spinning Man skillfully provides visual bits of the mystery without providing any definitive answers; it constantly keeps the viewer off-balance and unsure as to whether Evan is innocent. Thanks to Pearce's performance, however, we hope that he might be. His class lectures feel realistic and thoughtful, rather than perfunctory or functional, and they offer genuine reflection on the rest of the story. Frequent images of mice and traps also help the movie's atmosphere.

Brosnan offers another interesting layer; his detective Malloy speaks slowly and his every behavior is measured (he's shown to be a recovering alcoholic), and so his tete-a-tete moments with Evan are intelligent and engaging. The denouncement sequence with the two of them, while unorthodox, is also fairly brave and somewhat fascinating.

Likewise, Driver's character — rather than a sidelined "wife" character — actually has feelings, and a past, that she calls upon to make her character believable and sympathetic. Of course, Spinning Man also knows how to work more below-the-belt facts — it has its moments of erotic desire and anticipation — and it doesn't add up to anything exceptional, but it's still a dizzy entertainment.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release features an OK transfer, perhaps a bit soft and high-contrast, leaning a little toward green. Sound is fine, and there are optional subtitles. There's also a digital copy, but no DVD. The Blu-ray comes with a director's commentary track, a 12-minute studio-produced behind-the-scenes featurette, and four minutes of deleted scenes, as well as a trailer for this and other similarly "B"-level Lionsgate releases.

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