"Remember, do not be a hero. No piece of art is worth a human life."

That's what the various employees of a tony London auction house are told. But not all of them believe it. Simon (James McAvoy), for one. The young auctioneer must realize that double-crossing a serious criminal like Franck (Vincent Cassel), who's always accompanied by heavies, could very well result in death. But Simon does it anyway -- over a piece of art. It's not that he's a particular fan of Goya, or this particular painting. In fact, in one of the movie's wry details, we learn that Simon probably hated Goya. But he has nothing against the many millions this piece of art is worth.

What was Simon thinking when agreed to be the inside man on this job, but kept the painting for himself? We don't know. Simon doesn't know. Because in the course of the heist with which the movie opens, Simon uses a taser on Franck, and Franck responds by hitting Simon in the head so hard that, it seems, he loses his memory. Or at least the part of it that would recall what he did with the painting.

"I don't remember" seems like an incredible answer to the question of what you did with a piece of canvas worth more than $25 million, but Franck believes Simon -- after he's had his men tear out a few of Simon's fingernails and Simon still insists he can't remember. So Franck tries a gentler tack. He takes Simon to a hypnotist on Harley Street. The professional, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), is breathtakingly beautiful. And so it's clear things are about to get even more complicated for Simon -- and everyone else.

On screen
» Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
» Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
» Director: Danny Boyle
» Rated: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images and language
» Running time: 104 minutes

The storyline of Danny Boyle's latest film veers between clever and crazy. It's sometimes sexy, and always entertaining. Sure, the plot can be a bit preposterous at times -- Elizabeth seems to find it rather easy to hypnotize even skeptics, though if anyone's voice could do it, it's hers. But Boyle brings his trademark fast pace and faster soundtrack. Before you can finish the thought that this whole thing seems a bit like a stylish but unsubstantial music video -- Underworld's Rick Smith composed the soundtrack -- you're hooked. If there's one thing the director of "Trainspotting" knows how to do, it's make us fascinated by the lives of lowlifes.

It helps that they're played with such charisma and class. Cassel is often made the bad guy -- remember "Eastern Promises" -- but the talented actor is more interesting as a more complicated figure, as he is here. McAvoy is winsome as an everyman who can't remember why he decided to be exceptional. And Dawson is so smooth, her mesmerizing performance papers over all of the problems with the plot.