Robert Rodriguez and Ben Affleck’s “Hypnotic” is a messy but intriguing movie with twists that change the movie’s characters, genre, and entire story.
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|Robert Rodriguez and Max Borenstein
|Date Released (In Theaters)
|May 12, 2023
|1 hr, 34 minutes
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Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is a rebel in show business. Rodriguez made a name for himself by making his first movie, “El Mariachi,” for less than $10,000 and having it premiere at Sundance. He pursues whatever creative curiosity he has, from shoot ’em-up desperado adventures (like his Mexico trilogy) to horror (The Faculty, Planet Terror), to noir (Sin City), to family entertainment (Spy Kids). Rodriguez often writes, directs, and edits his movies. He knows how to stretch a budget and film fast, and his style has earned him prominent work on the Disney+ “Mandalorian” series. With Rodriguez’ new page of fame, he has now made his own psychological sci-fi thriller, “Hypnotic.”
The premise of “Hypnotic” is simple, catchy, and waning into goofy. What if there was a criminal who could hypnotize anyone into following his orders? Everyone except Ben Affleck.
“Hypnotic” follows Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck), a police detective trying to find closure after his daughter’s abduction. We meet him at the end of a therapist visit, where a cop partner picks him up and informs him they’re on their way to a stakeout to stop a bank robbery.
At the stakeout, Danny notices a mysterious yet sinister man (William Fichtner) who’s seemingly able to give random directions to people, and they obey his word. Danny pinpoints this stranger as the one about to rob the bank. Danny tries to interfere by going to the bank and finding the lockbox the stranger needs. But in the box, Danny finds a picture of his own missing child.
The shocks and surprises come fast for Danny as well as the audience, as chaos ensues outside the bank due to the stranger’s ability to talk anyone into anything (he makes a woman strip off her clothes, he causes car crashes, and he causes two cops to kill each other). The one person who seems immune to the villain’s words is Danny.
Rourke corners the stranger on top of a building, yet the stranger is equally upset that Danny took the photo from the lockbox. The stranger demands the photo back, while Danny demands answers about why he had the photo in the first place. The stranger miraculously disappears by jumping off the building. But Danny needs to know why the person is breaking into banks and why he has a picture of his daughter.
Danny is able to track down the fortune teller, Diana Cruz (Alice Braga). She used to work with the anonymous bank thief named Lev Dellrayne. She explains that she and Dellrayne were part of a government program called “Hypnotics,” powerful hypnotists who could control anyone except for Rourke. As the mysteries build, Danny and Diana team up to investigate what Lev Dellrayne wants, as Dellrayne tries to use people to hunt down Danny and Diana.
“Hypnotic” starts as a mystery thriller that slowly builds its sci-fi premise until shifting halfway through with a twist that can intrigue viewers, confuse them, or make them laugh. Instead of being a simple mystery with a psychological twist, Rodriguez and co-writer Max Borenstein set a more ambitious goal of building a sci-fi franchise. The attempt to quickly balloon the science fiction elements and expand into a franchise makes the film boated, convoluted, and comical, but nevertheless intriguing.
Things To Note
Why Is “Hypnotic” Rated R
- Dialogue: Mild
- Violence: Moderate but consistent with lots of blood.
- Sexual Content: Very little and no nudity
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Is being “Hypnotic” genetic?
- So what was real? While the girl was clearly missing/hidden, did the media ever know about it? Was the bank heist real? Was the first half of the movie a delusion for the viewer too?
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
A grieving father who wants answers to why his daughter was taken and if she’s still alive. When Danny attempts to uncover who Lev Dellrayne is, he also reveals more about himself.
A fortune teller who has seemingly worked with Lev Dellrayne before. She understands Dellrayne’s power, but while helping Danny find his daughter, Diana shares a few of her own secrets.
A mysterious and powerfully persuasive thief who can hypnotize people to do his bidding. But Dellrayne might have met his match when his powers became ineffective against Danny Rourke.
Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)
Ambitious Story with Personal Flourishes
Robert Rodriguez has a signature touch to his projects. A Texas setting, telenovela slow-motion, zoom-ins of violence, and a character with an unnecessary eye patch provide fun in a story that can be difficult to follow. But the story also feels original. While you can see its cinematic influences (Hitchcock, Christopher Nolan, the Matrix series), it also tries to create a new voice and story to tell.
Alice Braga as an Exposition Tool
For most of the film, Alice Braga’s character Diana Cruz patiently explains to Danny her profession, background, information on the villain, and more. While some characters are obligated to explain the mechanisms in a sci-fi movie, Braga’s role is wasted when she serves the point of an infomercial. The explanation of Hypnotics could have been more visual with a commercial, flashbacks, a book guide, etc.
On The Fence
As the twist reveals that there was no bank heist and Danny Rourke actually hid his own daughter from Dellrayne before wiping his own memory, the narrative starts to fall under its own weight. What we assumed to be certain is all delusion, but it also feels like the story we invested in abruptly ends and is replaced with another story.
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