“Ford vs. Ferrari” actor Josh Lucas is used to playing sweet characters like Jake Perry in “Sweet Home Alabama.”

In “Murderous Trance”—which opens Friday, December 6, at the Arrowhead 18 in Peoria, the Shea 14 in Scottsdale, the Superstition Springs 25 in Mesa and the Chandler Fashion 20 in Chandler—he stars as Björn Schow Nielsen, a notorious criminal and master of mind control. The film is a psychological thriller based on a true post-World War II incident in Denmark that explores whether hypnosis can compel one to murder.

“The guy’s a serial killer who also happens to be new age-y,” Lucas says with a laugh.

“It’s an incredibly weird duality. It was challenging in that we shot it in a period of eight days—a very intense eight-day shoot in Croatia. I was very jetlagged and I used the fact that I was so exhausted and jetlagged to fuel the madness of him in a way and try to understand his charisma.”

The film was directed by award-winning Finnish filmmaker and documentarian Arto Halonen, and it also features Pilou Asbæk (“Game of Thrones,” “Ben-Hur” and “Ghost in the Shell”) as the Danish police detective who pursues him.

Lucas calls Halonen the Werner Herzog of Finland. Halonen has received the Finland Prize and the Humanitarian Film Award of the European Union. He has been celebrated for his choice of socially conscious and timely topics.

“He does these extraordinary documentaries,” Lucas says. “He’s fascinated with real-life stories and he’s practiced hypnosis. He’s been under hypnosis quite a bit. He’s immersed himself in the science of the art of hypnosis.

“He’s a very amazing and interesting director. I also love making movies in places I’ve never been and in worlds I’ve never been like Croatia and Serbia.”

Lucas was inspired to appear in the film because of Halonen’s experiences and the fact that “Murderous Trance” is a true story.

“It was kind of fun to sink my teeth into that level of debauchery,” he says with a laugh. “He’s a true sociopath who literally doesn’t have to think about people. There’s no empathy with that character. He’s just mad all around.”

Halonen says it took some time to develop the film, but he still considers it “very timely,” considering the madness in the world.

“With politics and social media, we’re all very much manipulated,” he says in broken English. “A lot of elections around the world have been manipulated. I was also studying hypnosis and, in that time, reading a lot of books.

“This is a very important, amazing story to tell. How can you circumvent morality and go inside of people? That’s the same method with what happens all around us. That’s why I felt great to try to make the film about this.”

He says Lucas was the perfect actor for the role of Nielsen.

“I really love his voice and his eyes and handsome look,” Halonen says. “I felt it was a fantastic combination for a person like this. We offered the role for him and I’m really happy he did it.”

For more information, visit mycinema.live or youtu.be/1pW_GAU8m-k.