Hypnotic Review


Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic is a refreshingly quick sci-fi thriller that deserves a bigger build up than it’s been getting.

PLOT: A detective (Ben Affleck) in Austin investigates a violent bank robbery carried out by a man (William Fichtner) who seems able to hypnotize his victims into doing his bidding. Along the way, he discovers a secret organization of “hypnotics” that may have something to do with his daughter’s disappearance.

REVIEW: While watching Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic, I was struck by how much I’ve missed the ninety-minute genre movie. The movie runs for an hour and a quarter and isn’t a masterwork, but it’s effective and has a fast pace that more directors should take note of. A kind of jacked-up genre mashup that’s a bit like Scanners by way of Inception, Hypnotic, which is getting a very low-key, but relatively wide, theatrical release this Friday, is the kind of genre movie we got pretty much weekly in the eighties and nineties. Back then, it would have likely gone unnoticed before finding a bigger audience in video stores, but given how big and ambitious genre movies are these days, Hypnotic can’t help but feel like a breath of fresh air.

In the film, Ben Affleck, in a rare genre turn, plays a good guy detective named Danny Rourke, baffled by a violent bank robbery that left half a dozen dead. The robbery, which was led by William Fichtner as Dellrayne, was not about money, but rather a Polaroid photo of Rourke’s missing daughter. Dellrayne seems able to hypnotize people at will, leading Rourke to a small-time hustler/hypnotist, Diana (Alice Braga), who had dealings with Dellrayne before and spins a yarn about a secret society of “hypnotics” who essentially want to take over the world.

Rodriguez, who also co-wrote the film with Kong: Skull Island writer Max Borenstein, seems heavily inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Inception. It has a dreamy quality, and you don’t know if you are seeing the real thing. Affleck’s overly hardboiled performance and corny dialogue make the first half of the film seem cheesy. Once the movie gets going, you realize that this was all deliberate deception. It’s a risky move, but Rodriguez mitigates it by keeping the pace so tight, as it moves so quickly, even if you roll your eyes at some of the dialogue, you’ll still be entertained.

Since playing Batman, Affleck has mostly avoided genre fare in favor of drama, but he seems game for what Rodriguez is cooking up here. Affleck’s square jaw and his Hitchcockian style makes him a fun leading man. This is especially true once the film gets going in its second half. Alice Braga is a great supporter as the dime store psychic who goes on the run with Affleck, but William Fichtner steals the show as the villain. Fichtner is engrossed in the role, and enjoys it. The movie makes full use of his presence. Rodgriguez has also included cameos from some of his regulars including Jackie Earle Haley, who played Alita in Alita Battle Angel, and Jeff Fahey. The movie was pretty much all shot at Troublemaker Studios, and you can note that some of the sets from Alita have been redressed here to double for Mexico and a few other places.

Despite a pretty low budget considering the genre, Rodriguez makes Hypnotic seem slick, sharing DP duties with Pablo Berron. At the same time, his son Rebel contributes a well-done Hans Zimmer-esque score.

While Hypnotic probably won’t do colossal business theatrically due to a complicated behind-the-scenes situation, you can read about here; it’s the kind of movie that might pick up a cult following once it hits streaming. The folks at the Cannes Film Festival liked it enough to give it a place in the Midnight section, and indeed it’s a fun little flick that’s well worth checking out.

Hypnotic trailer, Ben Affleck


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