I knew I was in trouble even before I pressed play on Mad Genius, a film that it states on IMDb had the original title of Mindhack: #savetheworld (urgh, god help me). The whole thing, from the central idea to the poster design, had an air of Mr. Robot about it, most probably without the talent and resources that made that show so gripping and successful.
Let me run the one-line synopsis by you and see if you roll your eyes as hard as I did. "A young mad genius attempts to 'hack the human mind' in order to fix himanity" There you go. That's the central idea, with Chris Mason in the central role of the mad genius, named Mason, and Scott Mechlowicz as an alter-ego named Sawyer (and he's very aware of his alter-ego status, this isn't a case of "Scotty doesn't know").
A mad genius trying to sort out the problems of society. An imaginary figure helping him along. A powerful nemesis, in the shape of a man named Eden (played by Faran Tahir). Writer-director Royce Gorsuch certainly doesn't do himself any favours in his solo feature debut. Not only can he not help himself from running so close to the Mr. Robot vibe, he also cannot back up any of his ideas with enough capability to fully realise them onscreen.
As is often the way with indie film-makers who don't want to let their ideas be constrained by the realities of their level of film-making, Mad Genius has a few elements that have potential, were they not constrained by the realities of the level of film-making. Things get a lot worse by the third act, mainly because Gorsuch has misplaced faith in his own intelligence, seeming to think that he is providing a thought-provoking and satisfying finale when it's just a complete mess, and a mess that never engages viewers (who I suspect will, more often than not, be wondering why they haven't just opted to rewatch Mr. Robot instead).
It's often unfair to rate a movie for what it isn't. You should rate it for what it is. I agree with that, for the most part. It's impossible to rate certain movies on their own, however, when they do so much to invite unfavourable comparisons. And Gorusch, whether deliberately or not, invites those comparisons with every minute of this film.
The cast are decidedly okay, although Mason struggles to convince as the titular mad genius. Mechlowicz has a lot of fun, Tahir is a believable threat, and Spencer Locke brightens things up slightly as a young woman named Sawyer.
I like to be pleasantly surprised by movies. Trying not to have any expectations can be hard, but going in with certain expectations and having them proved inaccurate is always a pleasant experience. This film was not a pleasant experience. I'd suggest simply avoiding it until it disappears further and further beneath an ever-growing pile of better films you can watch instead.