Michelle Thrush in Parallel Minds (Photo: LevelFILM)
★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Benjamin Ross Hayden
STARS Greg Bryk, Tommie-Amber Pirie
A near-miss of a movie, Parallel Minds sports a sharp visual style and a workable hook but never quite lives up to the promise of its premise.
The focus of this futuristic film from writer-director Benjamin Ross Hayden is Red-Eye, a tech company whose top scientist, Elise Perrot (Michelle Thrush), has invented a contact lens that records and retains memories for later enjoyment. Perrot is murdered in her laboratory, but camera footage shows no one entering the room. Given the A.I. involvement, can her killer be some sort of ghost in the machine? Two people aim to crack the mystery: Perrot’s assistant, Margo Elson (Tommie-Amber Pirie, mostly monotonous), and Thomas Elliot (Greg Bryk), an old-school gumshoe in this brave new world. Assisting them in their endeavors is underground cyberpunk Jade Drayton (Madison Walsh), the sort of hacker who might turn up in a Keanu Reeves sci-fier (Replicas, Johnny Mnemonic or The Matrix — take your pick).
For a low-budget effort, the look of Parallel Minds is frequently exciting, particularly the manner in which the backgrounds of the high-tech scenes captured by director of photography Jeff Maher shimmer in a hazy shade of splendor. But the story grows more cumbersome and less interesting as it unfolds — this is particularly true when it comes to the ample flashbacks. It’s standard operating procedure in these types of yarns for the past to inform the present (it turns out that both protagonists will be settling long-ago issues over the course of their sleuthing), but the revelations aren’t exactly riveting, and the role of Red-Eye’s CEO (Neil Napier) in the proceedings is ultimately as clumsy as it is obvious.
Parallel Minds has enough going for it that one wishes it had managed to pull itself across the finish line. In fact, it’s a rarity in that I would be willing to see it remade posthaste by an adventurous studio. Obviously keep Hayden as director, hire a co-scripter to help him unclutter the script, replace a couple of performers, and let it rip. It could even be called Parallel Minds Version 2.0 in keeping with the spirit of the piece.
(Parallel Minds is available on DVD and on Fandango Now, Vudu, and other streaming platforms.)