Mason Wells (Chris Mason) gets a wild hair up his ass about “fixing” society’s ills by hacking the human mind in order to save mankind from themselves. This seems reasonable (in a totally batshit, definitely going to go wrong sort of way). Standing in Mason’s way is the fact that he doesn’t have the resources to pull this off on the scale necessary in any way, shape, or form…and he has multiple personalities rattlin’ around in his head (thanks to the fact he’s done the initial testing of his new technology on himself) making him do whatever it take to see his crazy scheme come to fruition. To make matters worse, he spends his time hanging out with some sort of tech obsessed drug cult that hangs out in a warehouse having raves and attempting to expand their consciousness via new hardware (oh, and drugs as previously established). Before our story is through, what will be left of Mason’s morality and human consciousness as he sinks deeper into the hack he has created?
Mad Genius is a multilayered if flawed motion picture. Starting with the positives, the acting from Chris Mason in the lead role is strong; he’s equal parts frantic and likable, and he definitely is an engaging enough presence to hold our interest and sympathy throughout the run time. Also strong are the artistic flourishes; psychadelic visuals, some lighting that brings the work of Bava and Argento to mind, and excellent cinematography raise this above most independent sci-fi flicks on a budget. Kudos to to the story that refuses to hold the viewers hand…it lets the audience to think for themselves, and isn’t afraid to leave some questions completely unanswered.
Moving to the opposite end of the spectrum, though the overall narrative of Mad Genius is solid enough, the elements that are akin to Fight Club crossed with The Matrix can come off as rather cheesy (the erstwhile “tech talk” already seems dated and it deals with things that aren’t even possible yet…that’s damn impressive in it’s absurdity) and downright annoying at times…especially in regards to Mason’s bargain bin Tyler Durden alter-ego who comes of as grating most of the time he is on screen. None of this is enough to spoil the film, but it does create a dichotomy between the gravitas of the metaphysical and moral questions the film makers ask and the comic book, B-movie aesthetics in a jarring way.
Mad Genius is a cerebral, slick, sci-fi thriller with some surprisingly deep thoughts…thoughts that often drift to story elements we’ve seen done better and a heaping helping of off-kilter silliness. A study in opposites that doesn’t always work, but is worth a view or two.
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