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Review: Technology is not what fails ‘Listening’

In “Listening,” Caltech grad students David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) have been developing headgear that facilitates telepathy, filching school equipment and amassing it inside David’s garage to conduct unauthorized experiments.

Much to David’s dismay, womanizer Ryan gives Jordan (a skimpily clothed Amber Marie Bollinger) a tour of the makeshift lab, and she unexpectedly assists in their breakthrough.

But the CIA, which has been unsuccessfully testing a mind-control contraption, catches wind of David and Ryan’s work. The agency promptly kidnaps them, makes a job offer they can’t refuse and then, to ensure the secrecy of the project, uses their creation to monitor the thoughts of everyone involved.

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In light of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, filmmaking neophyte Khalil Sullins’ high-concept allegory may not actually seem that far-fetched. But as a director, he doesn’t rise to the challenge of his own script. Working with cinematographer Blake McClure, Sullins uses lens flares and color filters without any restraint. The result looks like a music video made on a budget. The poor direction and performances culminate in the embarrassingly awkward exposition involving David’s wife, Melanie (Christine Haeberman). To call it amateurish would be kind.

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“Listening.”

No MPAA rating.

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Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood; Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena. Also on VOD.

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