James McAvoy cuts loose in Split, playing 23 different characters, each with a different personality (and toothbrush) within the shattered psyche of one man, Kevin.
Shaven-headed, he’s Hedwig the nine-year-old, Patricia the church woman, Barry the fashionista, Dennis the tough guy and several more, always distinguishable by a new accent, a touch of a new outfit or broach, or the mere angle of his head or crooked smile.
The fact that all of these people seem to be going along with the plot is disturbing. Dennis has captured three comely high-school girls and imprisoned them in his underground lair.
So this is an exploitation, girls in bras and knickers movie, no matter how much director M Night Shayamalan disguises it as Hitchcockian psychological thriller, with DID (dissociative identity disorder) at its core, with shrink Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) trying to figure out the depths and lengths to which her prize patient is capable of taking his brain’s split personalities.
There are twists of plot and turns of character, and young actress Anya Taylor Joy emerges with credit for breathing life into her withdrawn role of Casey. It becomes a film about abused children fighting back, about victims and revenge, but Shaymalan can’t resist a few twist endings and reveals right at the end, that leave you spluttering rather than admiring.