Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Hypnotic

Josh Reviews Hypnotic

Hypnotic stars Ben Affleck as Danny Rourke, a cop whose daughter mysteriously vanished years earlier.  As the film opens, he and his partner Nicks (J. D. Pardo) are assigned to stake out a bank, because they’ve received an anonymous tip of an impending robbery.  Despite their presence, things go awry when a strange man (William Fichtner) arrives and seems to use the power of suggestion to compel a variety of innocent people on the scene to cause chaos.  Rourke eventually teams up with a psychic named Diana (Alice Cruz), who reveals to Rourke the existence of a secret group of powerful “hypnotics” who can use their minds to mend others to their will.  But what does this group have to do with Rourke’s missing daughter?

Hypnotic is directed and co-written by Robert Rodriguez.  I love several of Mr. Rodriguez’s films (the first Sin City, Grindhouse) though in recent years I haven’t been so interested in his new films.  (I’m not so interested in the Spy Kids franchise or his other kids-focused films; I was disappointed by his long-awaited Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For, nor did I think his long in-the-works Alita: Battle Angel entirely worked.)  But Mr. Rodriguez’s name always catches my attention, and I was intrigued to see him working in what seemed to be a more mainstream mold, with a top-notch cast.

One of Mr. Rodriguez’s talents has often seemed to be taking B-movie concepts and executing them with A-level quality.  I was excited to see Ben Affleck and Alice Braga involved in this story that, as it unfolded, had a lot of fun sci-fi elements (far more than I’d originally expected).  Sadly, Hypnotic never felt to me like it was able to move beyond its B movie roots.  The film has a lot of plot and action, but not nearly enough character.  It moves along at a break-neck speed, which can be fun, though I’d have preferred it had the film slowed down for a little more character-development and also a little more explanation of the various plot twists and turns.  I liked the film’s unexpected plot surprises, but when the credits rolled I was left scratching my head regarding some big questions that I really think the film should have better addressed (such as who exactly are the kindly couple we meet at the end?).

Be warned, the film has a few moments of extreme gore (a hallmark of a pulpy B movie!) — there’s one mid-movie moment involving Ben Affleck’s character and his partner that really raised my eyebrows.

Ben Affleck is always entertaining, and his charisma easily carries the story along.  He’s not exactly helped by some of the “hard boiled” noir-esque dialogue he’s given to growl.  Rourke is written an awful like a 1950’s private eye.  It doesn’t altogether work, and I wish we got to explore Rourke’s character on a deeper level than just “he’s screwed up because of his lost daughter”.  But Mr. Affleck brings the scenes to life and is eminently watchable.

I’d say the same, even more so, for Alice Braga, who as always is a luminous presence on screen.  Ms. Braga plays Diana, the hypnotic with whom Rourke hooks up to take on the conspiracy of bad guys.  I’ve been a fan of Ms. Braga’s for years, ever since I saw her in 2002’s City of God and 2008’s Redbelt (an underrated David Mamet film).  She’s always great; though as I’ve said before, I always wish she was in better movies.  (She’s shined in such otherwise so-so fare as Predators and Elysium, as well as in bad movies like The New Mutants.)  Ms. Braga does a strong job delivering all the exposition she’s saddled with; imagine how terrific she’d have been if we actually got to know her character?

The film has a strong supporting cast, all of whom do nice work in taking their basically one-dimensional characters and giving them life on screen.  I quote enjoyed J. D. Pardo’s works as Rourke’s partner Nicks; William Fichtner is great at quiet menace as the mysterious Dellrayne; Jackie Earle Haley (so memorable as Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen) is great in his one scene; and it’s always a pleasure to see Rodriguez mainstay Jeff Fahey pop up at the end.

If you’re looking for a fun short sci-fi film with a noir-ish bent, this might be a film you’d enjoy.  But Hypnotic is not a film whose plot stands up to much scrutiny.  (Some examples: Who exactly were the kindly couple we meet at the end and what was their real relationship to Rourke?  Was the “Division” of hypnotics always evil, or was there some good in an effort to train and organize people with this hypnotic power?  Was everyone in the Division really evil and deserving of the fate they receive at the end?)  Had the interesting concepts in this film been developed more deeply, and had the strong actors involved been given more complex characters to play, this film could have been great.  As it is, I found it so-so and somewhat forgettable.  I don’t feel like this is a film I’ll ever be driven to rewatch.  Your mileage may vary.

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