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Originally posted on Variety:
“‘Speed’ on a piano” is what Spanish genre stylist Eugenio Mira’s third feature “Grand Piano” has irresistibly been dubbed in festival circles — and true enough, this appealingly absurd thriller finds a prodigious pianist (Elijah Wood) quite literally playing for his life, as an unseen gunman threatens to pull the trigger at the first missed note. The execution, however, is akin to a less kinked-out Brian De Palma potboiler, with Mira’s swooping, playful technique as intricate as the protagonist’s arpeggios. “Piano” goes disappointingly off-key in its second half, once the assassin’s rather banal agenda is revealed, but not enough to quell word of mouth among irony-attuned midnight-movie buffs. Magnet Releasing has U.S. rights; the pic should make its sweetest music in ancillary.
The presence of the erstwhile Frodo Baggins — currently the go-to American star for European genre-crossover directors — may lead auds to expect something as virulently nasty as last year’s “Maniac” remake, but “Grand Piano” oozes a very different flavor of B-movie cheese. Setting out to tickle viewers rather than terrorize them, this not-quite-horror film is refreshingly blood-shy even in bloodshed, preferring to let the scarlet soft furnishings of a plush Chicago concert hall provide the red menace.
Wood, on this occasion, is playing the victim rather than the killer, though his twitchy piano man Tom Selznick remains a fairly opaque hero to the end. One drawback of the eternally boyish actor’s casting is that Selznick scarcely seems old enough to be on a comeback tour, following a crisis of confidence that has kept him away from the stage for five years. Nevertheless, he’s a suitably earnest, anxious presence — one needs to commit to material this silly, and Wood, with his perma-furrowed brow, certainly does.