Hypnotic Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Robert Rodriguez, king of independent cinema, returns with an idea that pays homage to a Matrix-style-like detective noir premise.
Genre: Action / Mystery / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, J. D. Pardo, Dayo Okeniyi, Jeff Fahey, Sandy Avila & Jackie Earle Haley.
Run Time: 94 min.
US Release: 11 May 2023 (SXSW)
UK Release: 26 May 2023
German Release: 10 August 2023
If I wouldn’t keep up with release dates, this Rodriguez-directed project would have flown right past me. No marketing, no trailer releases, it is as if the movie never existed. Maybe it is intended to be a joke, given the topic of the plot. I am a huge Rodriguez fan! I have his complete Mexi-Collection on Blu-Ray, I love his independent B-movie style, so I was looking forward to this new release, starring Ben Affleck, who I also like as an actor and director. Sadly, this has been a real letdown! So, get mentally ready, as I will pierce through your mind, with my review of Hypnotic.
A detective sets out on a quest, to investigate a mystery that involves his missing daughter. Pairing up with a fortune teller, the two escape as they are being hunted by a secret government agency, as well as a man who can control minds.
As stated before, I am a big Rodriguez fan, usually enthralled by his story notions. Alita: Battle Angel, based on Kishiro's manga series, is his last directed feature I watched and I loved it. Unfortunately, this premise was an incredible misfire! It does include exciting aspects, however, it is not elaborated enough. The best thing I can say about it is the fact that it is hilariously entertaining, for all the wrong reasons.
There is no hiding the fact that the screenplay is terrible! It is so derivative of previous productions, bordering on complete unoriginality as it doesn’t do anything creative with those ideas. The narrative comes off as a merger of a complex Nolan sci-fi blockbuster with unpredictable twists, plus the dark, tension-filled atmosphere of Fincher’s psychological thrillers. Sprinkle in a little Hitchcock and Matrix, et voilá… you obtain Hypnotic. The issue is that It doesn’t work because it is too convoluted, especially for the short runtime it has.
The story makes too many twists plus turns, with the final revelation being laughably dumb. The sentimental payoff does not work, because there is no exploration into the emotions the premise or its characters try to present. This leaves audiences not caring about the outcome, which demands that they accept what is happening on screen without any explanation.
The dialogues are exposition-heavy, to the point that it becomes nonsensical, especially as it keeps adding outlandish powers, without once explaining the world-building. It also tries to tell a dramatic father-daughter tale, though Aflleck’s monologues don’t help the cause to feel invested in it.
I am a fan of Ben Affleck; I think he is a good actor, though, an even greater director which is why I am so disappointed in his portrayal here. Affleck, who plays detective Danny Rourke, seems to be sleepwalking through his portrayal, at times even seemingly confused at what he is supposed to be doing. His deep, low-tone voice, sounds like he is trying to pull off a Bale Batman voice at times, though sounds terribly monotonous. He also had little, to no chemistry with co-star Alice Braga.
Alice Braga, as Diana Cruz, does give the best performance of the cast. She is engaging, energetic, as well as charming - until a certain point in the flick. Unfortunately, her character is used as a simple, exposition-dump figure, whose point is to constantly explain to the lead, and in turn to the audience, what is happening on screen.
William Fichtner is a one-dimensional villain. He feels dangerous, yet viewers don’t learn a single thing about his character, apart from being a human with the great power to manipulate others' minds. His motivation isn’t explained, nor what his end goal is. It is frustrating!
The cinematography is equally uninspired, using depressing grey imagery throughout the complete runtime. The few action sequences are generic, the editing is at times straight-out chaotic. This doesn’t really look like a picture directed by the king of independent cinema.
The effects were mediocre, a lot of the computer imagery used was already seen in Inception, Marvel’s Doctor Strange films and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The issue is that the effects of those features are realised much better!
The soundtrack is composed by Rodriguez's son Rebel Rodriguez. The music is very melancholic, trying at times to evoke the sensation of urgency during action segments, but failing to do so.
Verdict: I expected much more from a Robert Rodriguez/Ben Affleck cooperation! Yes, the core concept sounds fabulous, including an intriguing first act, but the further the narrative went, the more I lost interest as it introduced more outlandish ideas without explaining them. The plot is derivative from so many other films, especially Inception, yet does not add anything original. The atmosphere is stolen from bleak psychological thrillers a la Fincher, and then there is the Hitchcockian unpredictability it borrows from. This leads to a convoluted, messy script that makes little to no sense! The dialogue is pure exposition, re-telling the story that is displayed on the screen, just like trying to make up excuses for what is happening on the go. Affleck looks thoroughly confused about what is expected of him, Alice Braga is used purely to describe what is happening, and William Fichtner is unusually generic. The cinematography looks good but boring, the effects are mediocre plus the score is too overwhelming. Hypnotic is a disappointing 4.5 out of 10.
Have you seen this latest Rodriguez flick? What did you think? I do recommend waiting for it to be released on streaming platforms if you really want to check it out. For all others, who weren’t sold on the trailers, go watch something else! Thank you for reading!