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Written by: Victoria Alexander | April 12th, 2013

Convoluted and deliciously twisty but worth even a second viewing. I’ve been placed under hypnosis and it’s not like this at all. Why isn’t Vincent Cassel a huge star in the U.S.?

Simon (James McAvoy) is a fashionable star fine art auctioneer. He explains the high-tech security methods used by his auction house, Delancey’s of London, to protect their valuable objet d’arts. In this case, it is Goya’s ‘Witches in the Air’. As soon as Simon’s hammer goes down on the painting for over $20 million, thieves enter with machine guns and wearing masks. We watch as Simon follows the procedure for securing the painting. Hiding it away, Simon is accosted by bespoke-wearing Franck (Vincent Cassel) and hit on the head causing him a concussion. The painting is not in the satchel Franck takes from Simon.

Apparently, Simon is part of Franck’s crew and due to his gambling addiction, owes Franck a lot of money. So, when all else fails, Franck decides to use hypnosis to uncover Simon’s memory where he hid the painting. The hypnotherapist Simon chooses is Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson).

After Simon is released from the hospital you’d think his time would be filled with insurance agents, auction house investigators, the press, and wealthy art patrons, but he is free to go to daily sessions with Lamb. Giving Lamb a bogus reason for wanting hypnosis, Lamb quickly realizes it’s not about Simon forgetting where he lost his car keys. She wants to be an equal part of Franck’s and guarantees she will find the painting.

Things start to twist as Lamb becomes sexually involved with Simon. In the most talked about scene, before having sex with Simon, Lamb goes into the bathroom and we hear the sound of an electric razor. She walks out nude and completely shaven. When did Simon discuss his appreciation of hairless women? Is there an underlying sexual fetishism involved or, we are to assume, a purely aesthetic appreciation of life imitating art? There is a point here? What did I miss? (See for the screen shot.)

Male viewers are not interested in seeing actors showing full-frontal nudity; however, it is insulting that Dawson did it (as a gift to her at-that-time lover, director Danny Boyle?), but we never see McAvoy’s genitals. It’s sexist and cheats the audience. Why her and not him?

Why didn’t Boyle ask Cassel? I bet he would have been game.

It is quite rare for the star of a film – here it is McAvoy – to allow the second lead a better sexual scene or to display a more dynamic screen presence. But Cassel (to be fair, I am a huge fan of Cassel and has Netflixed all his foreign movies) has his own sex scene with Dawson and, and to use the pompous movie term, a more complex “character arc”. Up against Cassel’s powerful image on screen and Franck’s hard-bitten crew, McAvoy’s slight physique is a distraction. He is overwhelmed by Dawson’s hungry-sex look and Cassel’s devastating appeal. There is nothing McAvoy does to “foretell” what will come. Simon appears to be a good guy and even when we find out he is part of Franck’s crew, his true nature as a degenerate gambler and a clever schemer is never even hinted at.

You understand why Lamb goes for Franck.

If I had one other complaint about TRANCE, it’s that there is too much of Lamb’s babbling on during her hypnosis sessions. I didn’t fall into a meditative state, I got agitated. Movies are principally a visual medium, so I always say, “too many words”.

Show me, don’t tell me.

But then, the story twists again and becomes another movie. Yes, it is all cleverly tied up again but it is only a second viewing that will tell if there were clues and foreshadowing for the audience. Nevertheless, could anyone imagine this actually happening?

Vincent Cassel’s fantastic wife, actress Monica Bellucci (who didn’t see her in Gaspar Noe’s 2002 film IRREVERSIBLE alongside Cassel?), recently made the following comments in an interview, regarding her marriage to Cassel. As a public service to Cassel’s fans, I submit the following excerpt:

Monica Bellucci wouldn’t mind her husband being unfaithful if they were apart for a while. The 46-year-old actress – who has daughters Deva, six, and 10-month-old Leonie with spouse Vincent Cassel – values respect and loyalty more in a relationship than fidelity.

She said: “Passion you can feel for the worst man you ever met. But that has nothing to do with a deeper partnership. In such a one, passion stays, but more important is confidence, respect, knowing a man is not just loyal in a sex way, but that they will be there for you. That is more important than just fidelity.”

“It would be ridiculous to ask [fidelity] of him if I hadn’t been there for two months. You can’t ask such things as who has he been seeing, what has he been up to? It is more respectful and realistic to take the view that you’ll be with me when I see you.”

Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday.

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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: Victoria Alexander contributes to Films in Review (, Film Festival Today ( and Las Vegas Informer (

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