Plot: A man known as Chandra (Warren William) claims to be a mind reader, though he only took up the profession when he learned how desperate people spend millions to learn about the future. He has made a lifestyle out of scams and hustles, so Chandra knows all the tricks and knows how to work a mark, which means mind reading is just another chance to rake in the cash. As these events unfold, he uses his con-men in arms to help him deliver the good news to the customers, including one client that captures his attention more than the others. Sylvia (Constance Cummings) is a beautiful young woman who comes to Chandra for advice and is told to dump her boyfriend, then go on the road with Chandra. She thinks the operation is legitimate and follows his advice, but how long can Chandra keep the ruse alive and once Sylvia discovers the truth, what will become of their relationship and Chandra’s latest hustle?
Entertainment Value: The Mind Reader only runs about 70 minutes, but this movie packs a lot into that short duration. I like how efficient this one is, with minimal filler and no time wasted, letting the lean narrative be driven by a capable cast and cruise to a proper conclusion. The lead is a likable rogue, getting into scams and pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but easy to root for, as he seems more motivated by whimsy than greed in most moments. Chandra’s free spirited presence is one of the movie’s main draws, especially when contrasted with the humorous sidekick Frank, a relationship that provides some of the film’s best scenes. The focus on characters is a risk, as the cast needs to be on point and the chemistry has to be there, but both of those happen here and The Mind Reader works. And even if you aren’t charmed by the movie, it moves at such a brisk pace and ends before you know it, so it isn’t a long winded or hard to sit through picture. The Mind Reader might not be a film of deep substance, but it is a fun ride with a terrific cast.
At the heart of The Mind Reader is Warren William, who carries the film well and really pulls off the likable con-man persona with ease. He has the charisma to burn presence the role requires and the kind of charm a real hustler would need, but he also brings some heart to Chandra when he needs to. It helps that the movie is sympathetic to his character, as it lets him get away a lot, but William’s performance is pure charm and really fun to watch. As good as William is here, he is given a run for his money when Allen Jenkins shares the screen. Jenkins is a veteran of this kind of quirky sidekick role, to say the least, so he makes the most of his scenes and adds so much comic relief and personality here. The banter between the two is a lot of fun and Jenkins more than holds his own, even with William in fine form. The cast also includes Constance Cummings, Natalie Moorhead, and Clarence Muse.