Fine art auctioneer James McAvoy is the inside man for a heist that sees a priceless Goya seized during a daring raid. However, during the robbery, he gets bopped on the head... and the resultant amnesia means he can't remember where he stashed the painting. Crime lord Vincent Cassel hits on the idea of Rosario Dawson's hypnotherapist to jolt his memory... but the mind games make for a deadly game of cat and mouse. Director Danny Boyle's post-Olympian psycho-thriller is an assured slice of day-glo noir with enough plot strands to tie you in knots.
It's quite a leap from the cosily feelgood Olympic celebration of all things British to the gobsmacking sight of Vincent Cassel with half his head sheared off by a bullet.
Yet that's the trip director Danny Boyle has made with this darkly convoluted thriller. As he says: "It was lovely to be able to work at night on our evil cousin of the Olympic opening ceremony."
A slightly ill-at-ease James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer with a gambling problem that is solved overnight when he agrees to be inside man for cultured tea-leaf Franck's (Cassel) raid on his auction house.
The heist - beautifully orchestrated and scored by Boyle in a sort of condensed Thomas Crown Affair style - goes well...until Cassel whacks him over the head as the gang is frantically extricating itself from the crime scene.
Recovering consciousness, Simon realises he can't remember where he stashed the priceless object of the robbery - a Goya - which is bad news for Franck, very bad news for Simon, and appalling news for his fingernails.
When tortured digits fail to reveal the wherabouts of the masterpiece, Franck hits on the idea of using a hypnotherapist - Elizabeth (Dawson) - to recover Simon's memory of what happened. However, what he recalls would probably have been best left forgotten.
This is a slick caper driven by a pounding soundtrack (Boyle even finds room for flavour of the month David Bowie), top cinematography (London out-glams Manhattan) and a top-notch cast.
However, after that stunning opening setpiece, it gradually over-complicates itself, throwing in a barrel-load of red herrings and frantically underlining that Simon is an extremely unreliable witness.
Ultimately, it's only Boyle's supremely assured style that saves it imploding into a overcooked stew of half-memories and untrustworthy recollections.