Review: Robert Rodriguez Casts A Spell Over Ben Affleck With The Twisty Thriller HYPNOTIC

3 out of 5 stars

Hypnotic is a twisty science fiction thriller from the mind of indie action auteur, Robert Rodriguez. The Ben Affleck starrer is an entertaining throwback piece, the type of film that Bruce Willis or even Affleck himself might have toplined 20 years ago. In fact, Rodriguez first had the idea for Hypnotic way back in 2002 – it feels like a relic from that time – and it’s all the better for it. 

It would be wrong to go into too much detail about Hypnotic’s plot because Rodriguez’s film is constructed in such a way that each twist leads to the next (I’ve also been asked not to). Ruining even one of them would mean that I’d destroy your viewing experience. Therefore, I’m just going to give you a brief outline – essentially the film’s first 15 minutes. It’s enough to get the ball rolling. 

Affleck is Danny Rourke, an Austin detective haunted by the kidnapping of his young daughter, Minnie. A tip-off for a bank robbery sees Rourke confront the mysterious Lev Dellrayne (William Fichtnerafter he discovers a Polaroid of Minnie in the bank vault. It transpires that Dellrayne is a Hypnotic  – a person who can make anyone do their bidding through mind control – and he sets his sights on Rourke because he wants the Polaroid in his possession. Rourke seeks the help of fortuneteller Diana Cruz (Alice Braga) and the two set off to solve the mystery of Dellrayne and of Rourke’s missing daughter. 

Robert Rodriguez is known for his fast-paced action, and while there’s plenty of it in Hypnotic, the film is much more of a thriller. Many have been making comparisons with Christopher Nolan’s Inception (and rightfully so), but there are also hints of James Cameron, Brian De Palma and even the work of Philip K. Dick on display. In fact, the film makes for an interesting companion piece to John Woo’s 2003 Dick adaptation, Paycheck – which ironically starred Ben Affleck. 

Hypnotic is a real family affair for Robert Rodriguez. Not only did he co-write (with Max Borenstein) and co-shoot (along with cinematographer Pablo Berron), but he also produced and edited the film. Meanwhile, his sons Rebel and Racer Max were the film’s composer and producer. You could maybe argue that it may have needed someone from outside the family to come in and help unwrap the plot, which gets a little tangled, but it’s a well-put-together picture and it shows a maturity for Rodriguez, who often has a tendency to lean on cartoon style humour in his movies. 

As for Affleck – he’s a natural-born leading man and he can play this hero stuff in his sleep. He doesn’t offer anything revelatory here – but that’s the point. He’s a character who is out of his depth and maybe out of his mind. Alice Braga makes for and so-so companion and it’s nice to see grizzled veterans like Jeff Fahey, Jackie Earle Haley and William Fichtner put in appearances – it’s a shame they didn’t have more to do. 

Hypnotic might not blow your mind in a cinematic sense, but it’s a film made by a skilled director starring a good old-fashioned movie star. It might not pull in the Guardians Of The Galaxy crowd – but it did entertain me for an hour and a half – and I call that a major win.