Hypnotic – Film Review

There was a time when hearing the idea of Ben Affleck team up with director Robert Rodriguezfor a film would have been one of the biggest films of the year. There would have been billboards all over town and enough buzz to have it labelled ‘this year’s most anticipated film’. Yet here we are in 2023 with Hypnotic sneaking into cinemas with no fanfare. Not even a critic’s media screening.

Being a fan of both men, I must admit that I thought it was a pretty weird thing to do. Affleck is still ones of the world’s most bankable stars. For fuck’s sake, he’s Batman! While Rodriguez hasn’t exactly been making flops either. His last feature was Alita: Battle Angel and since then has been happily working in the Star Wars universe with The Mandalorian and The Book Of Boba Fett. Even the likes of Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande sought him out to direct music videos.

No, I fear the reason that Hypnotic was kept such a secret is because Robert Rodriguez has finally done the unthinkable and delivered a below par film. I never thought I would see the day myself, but here we are.

Plot-wise Hypnotic opens with Detective Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) in therapy. It turns out that years earlier his daughter was kidnapped in a park, and he hasn’t been the same since. Now, he is desperately trying to prove that he is ready to pick up the badge and gun and return to work.

The session over and his clearance given, Rourke goes downstairs jumps into the squad car and is instantly given a case involving a mystery caller tipping off the Police Force that a bank robbery is about to take place. On arrival at the bank, Rourke quickly picks his mark, the suspicious looking Dellrayne (William Fichtner). But to his surprise it is people around Dellranye who start to act strange and it is a mild-mannered woman who ends up committing the robbery.

While trying to put everything together in his mind, Rourke traces the original phone call to coming from a clairvoyant named Diana Cruz (Alice Braga) who introduces him to the world of Hypnotics; people who can hypnotize others with a simple word or phrase to get them to do their bidding. The problem now is Dellrayne, the most powerful Hypnotic of all, now has his sights set on Rourke and Diana.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there and soon I found myself being taken on a journey with so many twists and turns that I soon found myself feeling completely lost, something that never happens to me. Normally I am the one having to explain to friends what happened in a film outside a cinema.

The big problem with Hypnotic is that Rodriguez tries to be way too smart with his screenplay and given how interesting the idea of hypnotics are he doesn’t really need to be. This should have been a simple crime thriller with a maniac who can mind control people running amok but sadly Rodriguez brings in so many elements that soon the audience is feeling as confused as Dellrayne’s victims.

My other issue with Rodriguez stretching the story is that it loses its originality. When he first wrote this screenplay back in 2002, perhaps everything he wanted to do was fresh and new, but sadly too many of the film’s big action set pieces were very similar to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Inception. Then there is the fact that the only way I could keep track of what was happening in the second half of the film was that it seemed to mirror the storyline of Firestarter. Again, Rodriguez might have gotten away with this in 2002, seeing the original Firestarter came out 18 years earlier. But seeing the remake recently released in 2022, that story is still very fresh in a lot of cinemagoers minds.

I do have to give some credit to Rodriguez though. The big reveal about Rourke and his life is extremely creative and I for one certainly didn’t see it coming. That part of the film actually did make me sit up and take notice but given this is a film that should have the audience on the edge of their seat for 90% of the time, I found that for the most part, it was pretty mundane.

Even Ben Affleck seems bored (or possibly confused) by what is going on for most of the film and his performance is uncharacteristically laboured. William Fichtner is his normal menacing best but the real star here is Alice Braga who does a brilliant job with all the changes that her character goes through throughout the film.

I never thought I would see the day where I was saying that I didn’t enjoy a Robert Rodriguez film. After all, this a man that has made some of my favourite films over the years and his filmmaking book was one of the reasons why I started making indie films with my friends. But boy, I found Hypnotic hard to watch. Un-original in parts and a confusing storyline do not make for good watching.

Unfortunately, Hypnotic is one to avoid.

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