Two-time Academy Award winner Ben Affleck collaborates with genre filmmaker Robert Rodriguez for a science fiction actioner in Hypnotic from Ketchup Entertainment and Relativity Media. Rodriguez co-wrote the screenplay with Max Borenstein in a film he describes as Hitchcock on steroids.
Determined to find his missing daughter, Austin detective Danny Rourke (Affleck) finds himself spiraling down a rabbit hole investigating a series of reality-bending crimes where he will ultimately call into question his most basic assumptions about everything and everyone in his world. Aided by Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a gifted psychic, Rourke simultaneously pursues and is pursued by a lethal specter named Dellrayne (William Fichtner), the one man he believes holds the key to finding the missing girl, only to discover more than he ever bargained for.
If this were ten years ago, Hypnotic would have been the type of film with a moderate budget and got butts in seats. Outside of hearing about the film briefly in 2021, I had forgotten all about it until stories about the "work-in-progress" cut of the film being screened at this year's South by Southwest. I didn't even see a trailer for the film, so I went in blind.
Fresh off his Award-worthy directing effort, Air, Affleck returns to a film style that recalls his 2003 flop Paycheck with sprinkles of the Christopher Nolan classic Inception. Hypnotic, while offering a lot of twists and turns, isn't an over-the-top thriller. Instead, it's a mellow detective movie with some intense moments as Danny tries to find Minnie and uncovers more about her kidnapping than he ever expected.
The film starts in Texas but then ventures further south into Mexico, where Danny and Diana become outlaws without even realizing it due to Dellrayne's treachery. While in Mexico, they meet an old friend of Diana named River (Dayo Okeniyi), the ultimate hacker who can brew his own Mountain Dew.
Despite the numerous characters, Hypnotic seems to move slowly, portrayed excellently by Affleck's portrayal of Danny. It's unclear whether he's intentionally playing the character as low-key or bored with the assignment. At this point in his career, Affleck can do a role like this in his sleep, so I'm leaning toward the latter.
I was more fond of William Fichtner in our lead bad-guy role as he brings more to the film. Furthermore, I almost wished that Affleck wasn't in the movie and that Jackie Earle Haley (wasted here in a brief cameo) or Dayo Okeniyi was the protagonist to mix things up. Okeniyi displayed athleticism in the film Emperor and the TV series Shades of Blue so he could pull the role off the role of Danny.
Hypnotic does have some impressive gun battles and cool chase scenes like the one in the railyard, perfect for Rodriguez's style. Considering the budget, there are unique special effects, like when everything starts folding around Danny. A twist in the third act leads to a decent finale, although cinephiles may predict it."
Fortunately, Hypnotic has a brief duration, so it only falls short to some extent. After considering the talent involved and knowing it was a passion project for the director, I had higher expectations for the film.
Final Grade: C+
Hypnotic is in theaters now