Thursday 8 June 2023

Hypnotic (2023)

It doesn’t matter how many times you get to the cinema this year, I doubt you will see a dumber film than Hypnotic. It’s so consistently ridiculous that it sits on the same level as some of the classic stinkers of cinema, and may well go on to become a bit of a cult classic in time.

The plot all begins with cop Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) talking to a therapist about the day his daughter was snatched away from him. It was a typical day at the park, he let his mind wander for just a moment, and that one lapse has gone on to define his entire character. After his therapy session is over, Rourke is almost immediately sent to check out a potential bank robbery. That’s where he first encounters Dellrayne (William Fichtner), a man who can get people to see and do whatever he plants in their mind. While trying to figure out exactly how he works his magic, Rourke heads along to see Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a woman who knows all about the power of people like Dellrayne. Rourke needs to stop the guy, but he also suspects that he knows something about the disappearance of his daughter. It is going to be a lot harder to crack this case, however, while Rourke is unable to trust his own senses.

Director Robert Rodriguez isn’t a stranger to messy movies, to put it kindly, but his worst moments have always, up until now, been reserved for the kind of ridiculous kid films that we’re never exactly aimed at cinephiles anyway. Hypnotic feels different. It feels, despite the silliness, as if it is aimed at adult viewers, but it also feels very much like Rodriguez had an idea (he also co-wrote the script with Max Borenstein) and wouldn’t let anyone dissuade him from crafting an entire movie around that idea. And getting Affleck for the main role just goes to show how poor Affleck is at choosing star vehicles for himself.

While I could offer up a selection of lines from the script that would make even the most stone-faced reader laugh out loud, that seems a bit too easy. Especially when the cast do so little to help. Affleck plays his cop in the style of Topper Harley, Braga is disappointingly flat while delivering almost every bit of exposition required, and Fichtner isn’t allowed to just cut loose and have more fun with his bad guy. He should be the absolute highlight of the film, especially when you think of the ridiculous power he has, but he somehow feels like nothing more than a canny henchman. JD Pardo, Dayo Okeniyi, Jackie Earle Haley, and Jeff Fahey also appear, although the latter two only have a mere minute or two of screentime, which helps to spare them too much embarrassment.

There’s one decent set-piece, known to anyone who saw the trailer, but nothing else here. The score is uninteresting, the special effects are okay, at times, but will probably just make you wish you rewatched Inception instead, and the whole thing lacks tension, as well as lacking anyone to really care about.

It IS mesmerising, in a way, but it’s mesmerisingly awful. And shame on Rodriguez for calling back to a joke delivered in the far superior Desperado.


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