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Review: Loopy thriller 'Grand Piano' strikes a few sharp notes

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A race-against-time thriller set in a crowded concert hall, director Eugenio Mira's "Grand Piano" may never match the silky suspense of Hitchcock's classic of sinister decorum, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," but it has a certain virtuosic joie de vivre.

Elijah Wood stars as a celebrated pianist who, five years after a notorious fiasco of a performance, is making a nervous, much-hyped return to the stage. As he begins to play for the eager audience, however, his score reveals a scrawled note from a hidden sniper (a mostly unseen John Cusack) telling him to play perfectly a notoriously difficult, unscheduled piece or die. And if it's not him, it'll be Wood's adoring movie star girlfriend (Kerry Bishé), watching from her box.

So begins the loopy cat-and-mouse that Mira and screenwriter Damien Chazelle have in store, which includes surreptitious cellphone communiques from the stage, operatic murders and a wacko heist scheme involving the titular instrument.

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But if the earpiece-aided exchanges between Wood and Cusack play like garden variety killer-victim back-and-forth, Mira's immersive shot compositions are the real star, a diverting grab bag of Hitch/DePalma tricks: long Steadicam follows, deep-focus split screens, vertigo-inducing swoops and aggressive dollies. Not all the right notes are hit in "Grand Piano," but for an elegantly schizoid B movie, it's more B-sharp than B-flat.

"Grand Piano." Rated R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinema in West Hollywood. 

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