First-time Spanish director Jorge Dorado aims for Hitchcock and misses by a mile with "Anna," an old-fashioned thriller with a stale sci-fi premise and a prodigal waste of talent in co-star Taissa Farmiga.
The latest world-weary detective to become obsessed with the would-be heiress he's investigating is clairvoyant John (Mark Strong), a sleuth with the power to see fragments of his clients' memories. Though John finds his telepathic abilities increasingly unreliable after the death of his wife, he pursues a case to advocate on behalf of Anna (Farmiga), a teen imprisoned in her home by her distant parents while they fight over sending her off to a mental institution.
But the cunning Anna has her own secrets, mostly involving the murders of the Heathers at her boarding school. The question of whether Anna's just a snotty rich girl or a snotty rich girl who needs to be locked up serves as the film's narrative crux — one that would have been charmingly antiquated if Dorado hadn't inserted a hint as unmissable as that plane that hurtled toward Cary Grant in "North by Northwest."
Though "Anna" boasts a couple of elegantly shot mind puzzles in flashbacks to characters' memories, Dorado's fatal tip of the hand, along with the acute lack of genuine menace, renders this debut little more than a wilted homage.
MPAA rating: R for nudity and sexual imagery.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.
Playing: At AMC Burbank Town Center 8.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times