Geoff Cox’s DVDs: Trance, Stolen, Small Apartments, Dark Skies

James McAvoy in Trance
James McAvoy in Trance

Widely praised for his work as artistic director of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, Danny Boyle soon went back to making movies.

His densely plotted psychological thriller TRANCE (15: Twentieth Century Fox) is the story of a fine-art auctioneer (James McAvoy) involved in an audacious plot to steal a Goya painting worth millions.

But he suffers a blow to the head during the robbery and forgets where he’s hidden the canvas, so the heist mastermind (Vincent Cassel) enlists a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to help unlock his memory.

Further obstacles and mysteries emerge as she delves into his subconscious in a bid to find the lost picture.

While Boyle embraces vintage film noir elements like deception and duplicity, with a high-tech edge, the often confusing plot twists leave the complex yarn on the verge of collapsing in on itself.

McAvoy plays the inside man out of his depth with a nice blend of mischief and wide-eyed innocence, but Cassel’s ruthless crime kingpin makes the biggest impact.

> The ubiquitous Nicolas Cage and director Simon West, who worked together on Con Air, team up again for workmanlike thriller STOLEN (12: Lionsgate).

Cage’s thief, released from prison and determined to go straight, is forced to confront his past when his daughter is kidnapped by an old gang member (Josh Lucas), who demands he hand over $10million they stole together.

The former crook is unable to convince him he doesn’t have the money, so he sets out to rescue the girl, who will be killed if the ransom is not paid within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a hard-nosed FBI man (Danny Huston) shadows his every move and is ready to pounce.

It’s a well-worn premise and every race-against-time box is ticked, but there are too few surprises and the idea was handled with much more flair in the Liam Neeson action flick Taken.

> A lonely misfit who dreams of escaping to Switzerland accidentally kills his loathsome landlord and tries to cover up the crime in quirky comedy SMALL APARTMENTS (15: Sony).

Matt Lucas ably holds things together as the y-front-wearing loner who wonders how to dispose of the body, while Billy Crystal also has his moments as the alcoholic fire investigator who suspects foul play when a charred corpse is discovered.

Such is the desire to focus on Lucas’s escape with cash provided by his mentally unstable brother that the frantic storyline struggles to make room for the eccentric neighbours.

These oddballs include Johnny Knoxville’s drug-addled 30-something slacker, James Caan’s grumpy artist and Juno Temple’s wannabe Vegas dancer.

> Sinister goings-on in suburbia make life a living hell for a couple and their two sons in taut sci-fi shocker DARK SKIES (15: Momentum).

When unseen forces invade the family home, burglar alarms are tripped, pictures stolen fron frames, flocks of birds crash into the house and the youngest boy is communicating with a shadowy figure he calls ‘The Sandman’.

Is it an alien visitor, and, if so, what are its motives?

The story owes much to Poltergeist, but tends to signpost too many of its scares, jolts and plot twists.