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Grand Piano review

Chord in a trap

Whatever you think of Eugenio Mira’s thriller, it has a pretty solid pitch: Phone Booth , with a piano. Joel Schumacher’s high-concept effort saw Colin Farrell trapped in a public booth, with a sniper torturing him from afar. This time, it’s Elijah Wood in the hot seat as concert pianist Tom Selznick, who returns to the limelight some five years after he cracked on stage whilst trying to play the notoriously difficult piece ‘La Cinquette’.

Playing in Chicago, Tom’s comeback performance is soon looking like it might be his last, when his sheet music is scrawled with the menacing letters: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Somewhere in the theatre is Tom’s tormentor, training his rifle right at the stage. After a swift departure to his dressing room, Tom gets a text, telling him to look in his backpack. Inside is an earpiece, allowing his assailant (voiced by John Cusack) to whisper instructions.

Written by Damien Chazelle (who has since gone on to write/direct Sundance winner Whiplash ), Grand Piano gets more ludicrous with every tick of its metronome. Never mind that Tom leaves the stage on numerous occasions. Or that, at one point, he texts on his phone one-handed for helpwhile still tinkling those ivories. Or that Cusack’s killer has spent three years engineering this diabolical scheme in the most ludicrously complicated way possible. Still, all this could be forgiven if it weren’t for the disappointingly mundane reason behind it all.

Really, Grand Piano is a one-act idea stretched, barely, across three. But at least it’s attacked with zest by Spanish director Mira, who serves up some impressive visual flourishes – notably an overhead camera shot near the end. Wood, too, is thoroughly convincing, as he hammers at those keys. Cusack, largely off-screen, is effective, and there’s a welcome appearance by Bill & Ted star Alex Winter as his assistant. A pity they’re all made to hit duff notes.

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