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Whodunit is just the beginning in engaging mystery 'Spinning Man'

Whodunit is just the beginning in engaging mystery 'Spinning Man'
Ellen Birch (Minnie Driver) and Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) in "Spinning Man." (Michael Moriatis / Lionsgate Premiere)

The absorbing, if forgettably titled, mystery "Spinning Man" does a good job keeping us guessing not so much about who may have killed a high school cheerleader, but how it happened — and why.

The always watchable Guy Pearce proves a compelling combination of sympathetic and suspicious as Evan, a small-town college philosophy professor and the prime suspect in the disappearance of attractive teenager Joyce (Odeya Rush), with whom he may have been romantically involved.

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Meanwhile, cagey local detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) is hot on Evan's trail as Evan's conflicted wife (Minnie Driver, quite good), young children (Eliza Pryor, Noah Salsbury Lipson), co-workers (Jamie Kennedy, Carlo Rota) and lawyer (Clark Gregg) must navigate Evan's increasingly thorny place in this potential murder case.

Matthew Aldrich's workmanlike script, based on the novel by George Harrar, features plenty of handy red herrings and misdirection, particularly concerning Evan's dubious past and adulterous leanings, while also offering an intriguing philosophical outlook involving proof and certainty.

On the downside, director-editor Simon Kaijser takes an often choppy approach to the narrative, the catch-a-mouse symbolism is a bit heavy-handed and the ending could use more oomph.

Still, of the many interchangeable, name-lead thrillers and action pictures concurrently premiering these days in theatres and on VOD, this one's definitely a cut above.

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'Spinning Man'

Rating: R, for some language including sexual references

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD

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