Robert Rodriguez has spent the last thirty-plus years making movies built on his creativity and willingness to go over the top for a laugh or a thrill. His productions tend to be filled with crazy action, humor and wild, entertaining, visuals. This makes his latest effort, the reality-bending thriller Hypnotic, all the stranger. Somehow, this writer/director, working with an actor as talented as Ben Affleck, using material as ripe for visual and storytelling creativity as this, has made something that just isn’t interesting. There are flashes of the twisty fun this could have been here and there, but the result is lazy, sloppily written and surprisingly dull.
Rourke is a detective still reeling from his daughter’s kidnapping. After an anonymous tip leads him to a bank robbery and a series of clues pointing to his daughter, he finds himself embroiled in a dangerous plot where nothing is as it seems.
The title refers to a group of people whose minds are so strong that they are capable of easily getting others to do whatever they want. With merely a whisper they can force you to do something you ordinarily wouldn’t or see things that are not really there. The mind spins from how many juicy things a risk-taking filmmaker could do with such a premise. The screenplay should be overflowing with plot-trickery and insane action sequences. Sadly, Hypnotic (85 minutes, plus a mid-credit scene) bears no signs of coming from the brain of someone as inventive as Rodriguez. It just goes through the motions. Ben Affleck seems bored starring in it, so what chance did I have watching it?
The story isn’t bad. As expected, there are layers of truth and reality, with the rug pulled out from under the audience repeatedly. At the surface level, it is fine. The problem comes when you dig deeper. The dialogue is incredibly lame and humorless (I did laugh out loud multiple times at the silliness of it all, though it definitely did not seem like that was the reaction I was supposed to have). There is so much exposition that the characters seem like they mostly exist to explain what is happening to the audience. Probably due to this, motivations are kept as simple as possible. Then, once everything is revealed, the villain (who is intended to be a genius) turns out to have such a terrible plan that I couldn’t believe no one at any point in the creative process thought this might be an issue. This isn’t nearly enjoyable enough to get me to suspend my disbelief that much and it undermines the entire final act.
That act, by the way, is the best part of the movie because it is the only part that has any real energy to it. It is as twisty and revelatory as Hypnotic gets and allows the actors a bit more to react to. The rest of this occasionally sidles up to being engaging before doing as little as it can with the concept. Even the action is disappointing. These people can literally bend reality and plant images in other people’s minds! Yet the best this can do is a few shots taken directly from Inception.
Sometimes good directors make bad movies. It happens. What shouldn’t happen is a good director making a boring one that nobody involved seems to have cared much about. I would love to see Robert Rodriguez and Ben Affleck make a cleverly twisty thriller about mind-control. Hopefully, we can all erase Hypnotic from our memories and they can try again.
2 out of 5
Ben Affleck as Danny Rourke
Alice Braga as Diana Cruz
William Fichtner as Dellrayne
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez and Max Borenstein