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Review The Great Hypnotist a.k.a. Cui mian da shi (2014)

genre: thriller, mystery, drama




The Great Hypnotist does not waste time to show us what out main character is about. It's a thoroughly fascinating introduction and it makes you look forward to see more of it. Our main character called Chen Ting who is a famous psychologist is asked to take on a case that is very peculiar. A lot of mystery and intrigue is surrounded by it which for half an hour or so does grab your attention. But then it fades and fades and eventually sizzles out. What was supposed to be a hair raising thrilling viewing experience becomes rather dull. At one point everything is explained in great detail and I could care less. Not that the mystery we are presented to is not interesting or clever. Because it was, very much so. Only the way it was told killed the atmosphere and tension. Questions are raised whether what we see is real or not. This usually is an interesting mechanic since it's quite challenging to give solid explanations for supernatural elements. Plus it is fun to be fooled by a film. Only The Great Hypnotist never leaves too much doubt about what is happening. Not that you can predict everything right from the start. But enough to kill the enjoyment. It does not help that we don't learn a lot about Chen Ting. For which there is a good reason plot wise. At the same time though it makes it hard to connect to him emotionally. Which seems to be extremely crucial at the end. The Great Hypnotist had all the ingredients to go crazy and over the top and tell a compelling story. Since it had a plot angle that could do so in a very acceptable way. However I feel they dropped the ball on that. They did not even scratch the surface of the possibilities. And that is a real shame. When I started watching I was completely psyched (no pun intended) but gradually lost interest. The Great Hypnotist plays it too safe and borrows too much from other similar thrillers so that it's not that hard to predict which direction it is going. Now that does mean that if you have not seen enough this could prove to be offer more than you bargained for. 

Overall it's not a complete waste of time. Visually the film is very stylish. And that does help a lot. But I do think that fans of the genre will be very disappointed especially after the strong opening. As a drama this fails completely since there is not much time given to connect to any of the characters. Whatever is there is because of good actors like Karen Mok. She is able to give her character a lot of depth with minimal means. Only it's not enough to keep you drawn to the story. On top of all the tension and suspense that was very much needed is gone and with such an interesting premise is that is difficult to accept. 


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