Elijah Wood plays Tom Selznic, a master pianist who has not played a live concert in five years after making a number of mistakes whilst trying to play an allegedly impossible-to-play piece of music years ago for which he was lambasted and humiliated by the music press. His famous actress girlfriend, Emma, persuades him to return to the stage and play at an event which is close to her heart. He reluctantly agrees, but soon wishes he had stayed at home when things get more than a little weird once his fingers touch the ivories.
Flicking through his sheet music he reads a series of inked-on messages that basically tell him to play every note perfectly otherwise he and his girlfriend will die. To emphasise this threat the assailant then spots him with his sniper rifle laser sight. Realising that this is perhaps not some sort of sick joke, Tom then has to use all of his wits and piano skills to prevent things getting bloody.
I hesitate to say too much more about the plot of Grand Piano as the less you know about what happens the more enjoyable the ride will be. Suffice to say this is stylish Hitchcockian entertainment, which will please fans of the maestro and of classic thrillers gone by.
Grand Piano is nicely shot and, as you’d expect from a film which features most of a classical concert, has excellent sound design and a great dynamic score. The concept is pretty original – well, as far as I know – although it is a bit far-fetched and tends to raise more questions than it answers.
On the negative side there are some rather ridiculous scenes such as when Tom manages to play a complex piano piece and somehow manages to use his mobile phone to text a friend for help, simultaneously. Plus, for a film that is obviously influenced by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Dario Argento the side-line murder scenes are very tame and therefore a bit of a disappointment. In fact with the production company called Nostromo films (a nod to Alien there – and Joseph Conrad – me thinks) and some very Brian De Palma like set-pieces, you’d expect Grand Piano to be a little more ‘Grand Guignol’ than it is.
The cast all perform their roles very well and Wood makes for a nervy, but engaging main character, while Cusack plays sinister sniper very well.
Grand Piano rattles through its various acts with great aplomb and is a worthy addition to the edgier end of the thriller spectrum.
Icon Film Distribution has just released Grand Piano on DVD. There were no extras on the disc I was sent, but there might be some on the retail version.