Perhaps one of the greatest disappoints, when it comes to screening and reviewing films, is when you can fully understand what a particular piece was going for while also seeing that the goal is not going to be achieved.
“Mad Genius” had the vision, innovation, and direction, but it did not go the distance. A real shame.
“Mad Genius” brings us the story of a young, well, mad genius with aspirations to hack the human mind in order to fix the inherent flaws of humanity. He is accompanied by his… imaginary friend?… manifestation of the conscious?
The film is written and directed by Royce Gorsuch and stars Spencer Locke, Chris Mason, Scott Mechlowicz, and Faran Tahir. Faran, man, what are you doing here?!
“Mad Genius” should be a really interesting movie. It’s asking the big moral questions, blurring the lines of reality and a cerebral plane, and there’s exciting tech to explore. But it’s just… dull. Lifeless. Many times it felt like the filmmakers had bitten off more than they could chew. Like “Mad Genius” was too complex and aspirational to really be pulled off.
The plot was meandering. The dialogue was clunky. The settings went from ugly to overwhelming, with no pleasant rest in between. The performances were, by and large, so stagnant that when a cast member that did decide to come to work that day appeared it was almost off-putting. “Why should you try hard when no one else did?”
Everything playing out on screen felt so forced that you couldn’t help but feel tense, viewing it.
There were some glimmers of hope. The film offered some pretty good looking visual effects and seeing the proper execution of some of these “glitches” had me crossing my fingers and hoping that somewhere under all that pretentious drabble, there was still a movie.
After all, “Mad Genius” does present a really interesting concept and the mechanic of the conscious made physical is really well done in the film. The moments between Finn and Mason are some of the best in the entire movie.
However, I can’t abide storytelling that is both ham-fisted and vague. Don’t name your human-rooted, “don’t play God” character Angel and, in the same runtime, offer no solid explanation or “rules” for what exactly Mason is to Finn and why they connect the way they do. Is he the dark side? Is it what he wishes he was? Is it just… an extension?
Told me too much of what I didn’t need to know and secreted the parts that were of actual interest.
Faran Tahir was the real powerhouse of this movie and I hope he was paid well for his trouble. Tahir offered the most sincere performance (as good as one can draw from the material) while being the most woefully underutilized part of the production.
To summarize the real problem with “Mad Genius”: It’s like throwing a fistful of darts at a board, thinking that by hitting ’em with everything you’ve got you will land a bullseye. The reality is that you overcrowded your shot, nothing stuck and what had a chance was knocked off the board, and now you’re left with no score and nothing to show.
The bones are good. There are good ideas. Stop piling crap on and let the story breathe!
“Mad Genius” is available on Video On Demand now!
Featured image credit: Film Mode Entertainment
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.