2018 | DIRECTOR. ROYCE GORUCH | REVIEW BY ALEX MAYNARD.
Perhaps the boldest choice Gorsuch makes is to almost immediately subvert the trope of a character’s split personality being unknown to them or the viewer. Although Fight Club and Mr. Robot showed that this can be an effective twist, the quick reveal here smartly moves the plot along; indeed, given the importance of Mason (Chris Mason) and Finn’s (Scott Mechlowicz) relationship throughout the second and third acts, it’s easy to imagine how changing the viewer’s understanding of it could have felt frustrating or unfair. Basically, Finn is a partial ‘projection’ of Mason’s consciousness that separated from him during an experiment gone wrong. I’m no psychoanalyst, but Finn ostensibly represents an impulsive id, continuously encouraging Mason’s reckless and competitive side. As a result, the banter between the pair is the highlight of most early scenes, frequently conveying the distinct exasperation which stems from forced, prolonged interaction (viewers with siblings will surely empathise). The menacing opening sequence further recalls Mr. Robot by hinting at the existence of a large online community keen to disrupt societal norms, with Mason as their masked leader. Gorsuch follows this with an unexpected but inspired moment of levity: Finn is introduced teasing Mason about how absurd his outfit and speech were, establishing their dynamic while cleverly advancing the scene.
Nevertheless, viewers’ enjoyment of Mason and Finn’s constant arguments is diminished by the lack of clear boundaries or logic defining the latter’s existence. Gorsuch initially utilises multiple shots from the perspectives of secondary characters to demonstrate that Finn can only be seen by and interact with Mason, yet during a later scene Finn is required to ‘project himself’ into a room that neither of them has ever set foot in. Furthermore, Finn is able to project Mason into the room afterwards, which simply makes no sense. This scene opens MAD GENIUS’ problematic second act and exemplifies its issues, as the haziness surrounding the characters is added to the vagueness of a central aim that, as acknowledged above, is fairly silly. The pseudoscientific tone found here likely would’ve felt less glaring if Gorsuch had embraced a more comedic direction instead of maintaining tension. In fact, subsequent plot developments only serve to emphasise this further; while suspension of disbelief is an important consideration when watching any film, there were moments from this act onwards that pushed me to my limit.
I’ve seen countless fan theories suggesting that entire sequences from classic films occur solely within protagonists’ minds; for instance, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall arguably makes more sense if you believe such an interpretation. Without providing any additional spoilers, I’d argue that MAD GENIUS seems to be another entry in this niche group. Royce Gorsuch definitely needs to ensure that his projects’ internal logic is more fully developed if he continues to explore the sci-fi genre; however, the entertainment he creates here despite an occasionally vague foundation is ultimately promising.