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. Running a lean hour and a half, Rodriguez’s movie isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s lean and effective, with a propulsive pace more directors should sit up and take notice 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. Even more puzzling is that the robber, William Fichtner’s Dellrayne, wasn’t after money but rather a safety deposit box with a Polaroid of Rourke’s missing daughter in it. 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. Like that film, it takes on a dream-like quality where you never know if what you see is real. Much of the film’s first half comes off as cheesy, with corny dialogue and an overly hardboiled performance by Affleck. Still, once the movie kicks into gear, you realize this was all deliberate misdirection. 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. It’s fun to see him play the Hitchcock-style leading man, but Affleck, with his square jaw, makes for a fun hero, especially once the movie gets going in the second half. Alice Braga ably supports him as the dime-store psychic who ends up on the run with him, although William Fichtner all but steals the movie as the bad guy. Fichtner sinks his teeth into the role and relishes playing the ultra-evil baddie. He’s always had a ton of presence, and the movie thoroughly takes advantage of that. Rodgriguez also peppers in a few cameos by some of his regulars, including Alita: Battle Angel‘s Jackie Earle Haley and the great 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.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/hypnotic-review/