- Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, JD Pardo, Dayo Okeniyi
- Robert Rodriguez
- Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Release date
- May 11, 2023
Only the vaguest of criticisms can be made about Hypnotic without spoiling its “twists.” If you really want to waste an hour and a half of your day on this trash heap of a flick, don’t read any further. Spoilers ahead.
Hypnotic is a plodding mess of expositional nonsense that emotionally neuters itself with every amateurish and wearisome reveal of what it intends to be a mind-blowing twist. Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the basic premise is that Ben Affleck’s Danny Rourke is one of the most powerful members of a small cabal of now rogue government agents, known as Hypnotics. They have the ability to build mental constructs within individuals’ minds that cause the subject to behave in whatever way the Hypnotic would like.
It seems that the Hypnotics are on a mission to take over the world but to do so, they need to find Rourke’s daughter who, as the spawn of two of the most powerful Hypnotics, is suspected to be super-duper mega-ultra doppler powerful. Unfortunately for them, Rourke has hidden her away and suppressed his own memory (which is something that they can do). However, Hypnotics can also apparently create triggering clues that will allow them to once again access said memories, and Danny has also done this.
So, in an effort to trick Danny into helping them find his child, they have fabricated an elaborate construct around him. He starts the film thinking that he is a police detective whose daughter was kidnapped four years ago by a man who professes to have no memory of the abduction. Now, Danny finds himself tipped off about a case in which the perpetrator can apparently control people’s minds.
Everything about this movie is hackneyed and half-baked. The timeline makes no sense, if Daddy hid his daughter four years ago and the bad guys have been running Danny through this construct repeatedly since then, how is it that they’ve only run it 12 times? In the film, it took two movie days to complete the program and only a matter of minutes to completely reset it. Shouldn’t they have run him through it several times, or maybe tried a different scenario?
You see, apparently he regularly sees little errors with the construct and comes out of it without giving the bad guys what they want, so they do it all again. Well, since what Danny wants is a world in which the Hypnotics are no longer a threat to Danny and his daughter, and they have the ability to completely fabricate Danny’s reality, why wouldn’t they just fabricate a reality in which the Hypnotics have been destroyed so that Danny leads them to her? Instead, they create a reality full of Hypnotics that only serves to remind Danny of the existence of Hypnotics which is exactly what breaks him out of their spell. It’s one of the dumbest premises to come down the pike in a while (and we live in a world in which Velma is a thing).
The powers are vague and there’s no sense of how powerful any particular individual is. Furthermore, as the group currently stands, I see no reason why they couldn’t take over the world right now. They are incredibly powerful, and it would only take one of them a few minutes to get the ear of the leaders of the World’s major powers.
More than anything though, Danny’s motivation doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t want his daughter trained to be a killer. So, he hides her away with a couple of people who cannot teach her anything about her abilities, like how to control them. Then, he waits until she is older and strong enough to make the entire group of Hypnotics murder themselves in front of her as she looks on menacingly. Boy, it sure is a good thing that neither of her parents was there to help guide her over these formative years, and that she hasn’t been turned into a mass murderer… wait.
Normally in these types of movies, the visuals can make up for a lot of the weakness by giving us something inventive and fun to look at. Unfortunately, in Hypnotic, the eye candy is a mix of the mundane and what looks like pre-rendered and recycled footage from Inception and Dr. Strange. If that weren’t enough, the dialogue is contrived and seemingly cobbled together from dozens of other films (all of which are better than this). The characters are uninteresting and, by virtue of no one ever being real until the last five minutes, impossible to empathize with. It doesn’t help that Ben Affleck looks like he’s ready to fall asleep in each scene and that the rest of the supporting cast is nearly as bad.
Hynotic is the type of high concept that requires thoughtful and metered reveals, characters that you care about, and a goal that you can root for for longer than a couple of minutes at the end. It’s regrettable that no one held up their end of the bargain on this one. At an hour and a half, Hypnotic rushes everything yet manages to feel like a three-hour slog.
When your head clears and your memory returns, Hypnotic is a film that I wish I could forget.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.