Hypnotic is a sci fi thriller that arrived full of potential, some interesting ideas and an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, it drowns under the weight its own lofty ambitions
The first time I saw the trailer for Hypnotic, I was more than intrigued. It felt like we hadn’t had a good mind-bending sci fi thriller in a while, and one starring Ben Affleck, what’s not to love? My mind flashed back to standing with friends in the car park after watching ‘Inception’, dissecting every scene, trying to establish what we just saw, debating what was real. Director Robert Rodriguez steps out of his comfort zone and attempts a ‘Nolan-esq’ twisting thriller but he very quickly realises these types of thrillers are harder than they look to pull off.
Hypnotic is a 2023 science fiction action thriller starring Ben Affleck. It’s written, produced, edited and directed by Robert Rodriguez who started his earlier career with films like Desperado and Dusk till Dawn but more recently is synonymous with kids’ movies like ‘We Can be Heroes’ and The Spy Kids series. Ben stars as Danny Rourke, a detective for the Austin Police Department. He is struggling with his mental health due to the trauma of losing his daughter 4 years prior when she was abducted from a park. His daughter was under his care at the time, so he naturally feels guilt. This also led to the breakdown of his marriage, and he now throws himself into his work.
Danny attends a bank robbery with his partner ‘Nicks’ (J.D Pardo), things don’t sit quite right. When he spots a mysterious man (William Fichtner) who seems to have more than coincidental involvement in the unfolding proceedings. When Danny discovers a picture of his daughter Minnie left at the scene of this bank robbery, he becomes convinced it is linked to her abduction. And so, begins a rapid descent into a world he never knew existed with twists at every turn.
During his investigation, he meets fortuneteller Diane Cruz (Alice Braga) who explains to him what a ‘Hypnotic’ is. A Hypnotic is a human with superior hypnotic capabilities. They are able to influence people they see with mind altering hypnosis by simply meeting or speaking to them.
With ‘Hypnotic’, Robert Rodriguez attempt to step into the realm of high concept thrillers. This is a film, much like ‘Inception’ designed to leave you slightly confused and unsure about what the truth of what you are seeing is. The truth and reality are constantly questioned and almost every scene takes you further down the rabbit hole, leaving you questioning previously established facts and what exactly is real.
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When making sci fi of this sort, the audience are expected to suspend some level of believe and accept the journey we are placed on. A key factor in this is a set of consistent rules’ that govern this ‘universe’- Think of Time Cop’s ‘Same matter can’t occupy the same space (or even Superman being able to fly). Once the audience understands and accepts these movie rules, the rest of the film, no matter how outlandish, is acceptable.
Unfortunately, ‘Hypnotic’ trips itself up as at almost every turn. The rules of this sci fi supernatural universe are never fully established and the ones that are understood, are thrown out almost immediately in the next scene in favour of another ‘shocking twist’. What we are left with are a series of convoluted unbelievable story elements patched together which never quite merge. The performances are adequate I guess, Ben Affleck’s moody brooding is always fun to watch (I am a fan) but the movie does drift dangerously towards ‘B’ movie status rather than a cinematic blockbuster.
Hypnotic needed to be a lot smarter to deliver on this concept and to be taken seriously within this genre. The movie wants to be seen as clever but doesn’t quite have the gravitas to deliver through its dialogue, action scenes or story, and instead tries to achieve this through multiple ‘twists’. Maybe the director wore too many hats and would have benefitted from spreading duties amongst a talented team.
Despite my disappointment and many issues with the film, I still find myself willing to recommend you watch it, at least once. I certainly wasn’t bored during the movie and despite some of the nonsense, I was still interested in seeing where these proceedings would end up.
I flipflopped between 2 and 3 for a rating for this film and have settled in the middle on 2,5. No one sets out to make a bad movie, they intend to entertain and as a fan of this genre of films, i was certainly engaged, plus it gave me a new appreciation for films in this genre that are done right. I commend Robert Rodriguez for attempting something out of his usual wheelhouse but just wish it had been written and put together a lot better.
FYI there is an end credit scene to watch out for. spoiler -It’s another Twist!
Hypnotic hits screens on Friday 26th May
Watch the trailer here