MURDER IN MIND is a confusing muddle about a psychiatrist using hypnosis to investigate whether a woman murdered her husband. The film is so bogged down with deliberately confusing flashbacks and false memories that it ultimately collapses under the weight of its own cleverness.
Detective Halloway (Jason Scott Lee) arrests Caroline Walker (Mary-Louise Parker) for the gruesome murders of her wealthy husband Peter (Jimmy Smits) and their handyman Charlie (Gailard Sartain). She claims to remember nothing, despite a recording of her 911 call confessing to the crime.
Psychiatrist Dr. Ellis (Nigel Hawthorne) uses hypnosis to help Caroline remember that night. She brings up memories or arguments with Peter over a pregnancy and miscarriage which, she insists when fully conscious, never existed. With the help of Ellis, she begins to recall certain memories about
the night of the murder: Returning home unexpectedly after a car crash, she had overheard Peter hiring Charlie to kill her. In the ensuing struggles, she killed both men in self-defense.
These memories, however, are hypnotic implants given to Caroline by Ellis. Eventually she does recall the truth of the situation: The killer was Ellis. He met Caroline, whose real name is Mary Quinn, years earlier in a rehab clinic. He used hypnosis to reinvent her as "Caroline" and implanted
memories to create a woman tailored to appeal to his wealthy friend, Peter. He arranged a prenuptial agreement that divided the estate between Caroline and Ellis in the event of Peter's death. Now, Ellis tries to erase "Caroline" and restore "Mary," and to convince her to kill herself. Confused
between illusion and reality, Caroline tries to shoot Ellis and chases him outside just as Halloway arrives. Witnessing Ellis threaten Caroline, Halloway shoots Ellis. Before he dies, Ellis completes the hypnotic trigger that restores Mary. Pretending to be Caroline, Mary gives a statement to the
The main problem with MURDER IN MIND is the confusion over what is real and what isn't. Since so many sequences turn out to be hypnotic regressions--and implanted memories within regressions--the viewer quickly learns to dismiss everything it sees as potential fantasy, and not care about the
characters. Since the central conceit of the movie is to keep the audience off-balance, the result is a cold, distant experience that is thoroughly uninvolving. The red herrings and contradictory information are never explained away.
Director Andrew Morahan seems to be in over his head. The convoluted flashback/flashforward plot line would be difficult for any director to keep straight, and so Morahan settles for keeping individual chunks of the story watchable--even if the vignettes don't mesh into a coherent whole.
Hawthorne turns in a classy performance in material that is clearly beneath him (though as an associate producer, he is presumably watching out for his investment). Parker is believable as the vulnerable Caroline, much less so as the tough Mary. She's just attractive enough, and her scratchy voice
just pitiable enough, to evoke sympathy.
MURDER IN MIND simply doesn't manage to get across whatever it is the filmmakers had in mind. (Graphic violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: MURDER IN MIND is a confusing muddle about a psychiatrist using hypnosis to investigate whether a woman murdered her husband. The film is so bogged down with deliberately confusing flashbacks and false memories that it ultimately collapses under the weight… (more)