Part psychological thriller and part mood-piece, writer-director Dax Phelan’s “Jasmine” doesn’t offer much in the way of white-knuckle action, but viewers who remain patient through the movie’s brief running time might enjoy arguing afterward about what it all means.
Jason Tobin plays Leonard, a socially awkward young man who arrives in Hong Kong with the intention of putting his life back together by working through his profound grief over the loss of a loved one. Byron Mann plays the shady individual whom Leonard stalks through the city, convinced he’s the murderer who ruined his life.
About 75% of “Jasmine” consists of Leonard going about his daily business: attending group counseling, reconnecting with an old acquaintance and trying to stave off loneliness by striking up conversations with wary strangers. The other 25% involves him studying his prey while planning to take the law into his own hands.
Phelan throws in a concluding curveball that’s clumsily delivered and over-explanatory, sapping much of the picture’s ambiguity. The ending is undeniably provocative — and sure to be divisive — but “Jasmine” might have been better served by retaining some mystery.
Still, even when the movie shades too far into the oblique or the obvious, its evocative scenes of urban life and Tobin’s powerful performance provide ample compensation. Plot twists or no, this is a vivid depiction of a lost soul.
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica