Murderous Trance ~ Non-Spoiler Review

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Image is a photo montage of scenes from Murderous Trance. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film.

🇩🇰 🇨🇿 🇫🇮 MURDEROUS TRANCE 🇫🇮 🇨🇿 🇩🇰

MURDEROUS TRANCE aka Guardian Angel (2018) is a Danish-Finnish-Croatian drama, mystery, thriller film. 1 hr 42 min. In English with a multinational cast. This is based on a true story. 15 Cert U.K. Free on Prime Video U.K., Rent/Buy Amazon, Vudu, Apple TV USA, Flix Fling, Apple TV Can 


“The most incredible series of hypnosis crimes in history send an investigator and a hypnotist into a world of psychological manipulation.” IMDb 


Josh Lucas as Bjørn Schouw Nielsen 

Pilou Asbæk as Anders Olsen 

Rade Serbedzija as Dr. Dabrowski

Christopher Fulford as Thuesen 

Johannes Lassen as Petersen 

Pamela Tola as Susi

Sara Soulié as Marie Olsen 

Cyron Melville as Palle Hardrup

Mikko Nousiainen as Mortensen 

Rok Cvetkov as Anders’ Father 

Theatrical poster for Murderous Trance with Rade Serbedzija (right) and Arto Halonen (left)


Director: Arto Halonen

Cinematographer: Pini Hellstedt 

Writers: Arto Halonen, William Aldridge & Mitchell Bard 

Costume: Louize Nissen & Ana Toto 

Music: Tuomas Kantelinen

Behind the scenes of Murderous Trance with


Filming took place in Copenhagen, Denmark and Zagreb, Croatia. 

This film is based on true events and the real bank robbery that took place next door to Pilou Asbæk’s home in Copenhagen. 

It is based on a true story about the astonishing hypnosis murders that took place in Denmark in the 1950s. The hypnosis murders is the only known case when the court has been able to prove a hypnotiser guilty and sentence him for hypnotising someone else to commit a crime.

The theatrical run of this film in the US in December 2019 was cut short due to the Covid crisis and it was subsequently released digitally this year (2021). 

Arto Halonen has also co-written a novel, The Guardian Angel, based on the same incidents. The book was published by the Bonnier Group and it has been translated into five languages: Finnish, Danish, Portuguese, Serbian and most recently to Italian in October 2020.

Alternative theatrical poster for The Guardian Angel aka Murderous Trance


I was drawn to this film partly due to its subject matter but also because the cast is really strong. I could have been put off by the relatively low IMDb score but figured that this is an indie movie about a unique event and made by someone (a Finn) who knows a lot about it. The cast is a mixture of Danes, Croatians, Finns with an American in one of the two central roles. 

One thing that is obvious throughout is that this is not long after the end of World War ll and that Nazi sympathisers and collaborators have been punished and imprisoned but that many are now freed. It is clear that sympathisers remain in positions of influence within Denmark. It is important to bear this context in mind while watching. Notice what the men who had been imprisoned had done during the war to deserve this. 

Josh Lucas as Bjørn Schouw Neilsen in a scene from Murderous Trance

The acting in Murderous Trance is excellent! Josh Lucas has real screen presence and is by turns utterly charming, witty, smart, vicious, manipulative, suave, despicable and dangerous as Nielsen. 

Pilou Asbæk as Anders Olsen in Murderous Trance

Pilou Asbæk never disappoints and he certainly doesn’t as Olsen. His scenes with Josh Lucas crackle as the two men “circle” around each other. He and Sara Soulié have good on-screen chemistry and I enjoyed her performance as Marie Olsen. 

Cyron Melville as Palle Hardrup in Murderous Trance

The last time I had seen Cyron Melville on-screen was when he played a Laudrup (Summer of ‘92) and I must say I thought he was very convincing as the vulnerable and suggestible Palle Hardrup. It wasn’t that hard to feel a degree of sympathy for him and how he had been manipulated and used. 

Rade Serbedzija as Dr. Dabrowski in Murderous Trance

The rest of the supporting cast is solid with Rade Serbedzija as Dr. Dabrowski bringing a certain something to the role. It was nice to see Johannes Lassen not being a thug in this one (this is a The Lawyer/Advokaten reference)! 

Johannes Lassen in Murderous Trance

In places, the dialogue does get a little clunky but honestly, that’s not in the places which really matter. I enjoyed the verbal battle that was going on at various times. 

Murderous Trance does suffer from a degree of separation from the characters and events somehow, and there are a few parts that are a bit hokey which add to the drama but not to the effect. 

Pilou Asbæk (foreground) with Sara Soulié in Murderous Trance

The cinematography in this is excellent! I loved most of the directorial choices. The atmosphere is well established and you certainly get a real feeling of threat.

I very much liked the “update” at the end about Nielsen, Olsen and Hardrup. 

My overall verdict… although Murderous Trance is not a film without flaws I enjoyed watching it and at no time felt the need to check the time. It is an interesting exploration of a real event and for that alone worth the watch but it is further enhanced by some really good performances. If the subject matter is of interest then I would definitely watch it. 


2 wins ~ 

Gold Movie Awards (2020) Best of the Year Award ~ Best Feature Film; Best Actor ~ Josh Lucas

2 nominations ~ 

Gold Movie Awards (2020) Best of the Year Award, Best Director ~ Arto Halonen; Best Actor ~ Pilou Asbæk 


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