Hypnotic Is More Snooze Than Smash

Hypnotic still of Dan (Ben Affleck) showing someone a polaroid.

Hypnotic is a fascinating premise, especially if you think in terms of and are a fan of real-life governmental projects experimenting with controlling the human mind like MKUltra. The movie stars Ben Affleck as Danny Rourke. He’s a worn-down detective who learns of a connection between his missing daughter and a string of bank robberies. The robberies are odd, where the perpetrators are random strangers unaware of their actions. While occasionally tense, there is too much about Hypnotic that lacks believability, as they somehow elude an overpowered threat. Hence, the movie feels like a first attempt at filmmaking that jars instead of meshing. 

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Rodriguez and Max Borenstein, too much in the movie happens without the viewer’s understanding of what is possible. Abstract terms like “constructs” or whether a person needs a prior encounter to be under the influence of hypnotics hinder the opportunity for this film to become more. 

Resemblance to Other Films Harms Hypnotic

Hypnotic still of Danny (Ben Affleck) and Diana (Alicia Braga) talking.
Hypnotic still of Danny (Ben Affleck) and Diana (Alicia Braga).

Another issue is it’s reminiscent of other films. It’s like a cross between Inception, Manchurian Candidate, Firestarter, and The Matrix—all of which are superior films. It opens with Danny in a session discussing his missing daughter, then it’s off with his partner to stake out a bank robbery they received a tip on. Soon all hell breaks loose, but audiences are left perplexed, a state that remains throughout its runtime.  

Most of the Cast Delivers Decent Performances

The surrounding cast delivers better performances than Ben Affleck. Alicia Braga, as Diana Cruz, in particular, provides a compelling performance. Her acting is persuasive, moving, and mysterious. Her character depiction is the best part of Hypnotic. Ben Affleck, however, phones in his performance. Perhaps he couldn’t connect to his character since the story wasn’t there. Because you do not see Danny but Ben playing Danny to the point that I did not remember the character’s name and called him Ben. 

Muddled Story and Weak Tension But Visually Arresting

The story initially captivates when the film begins. Leading up to the bank robbery and Danny and Diana’s first encounter, despite Affleck’s lackluster acting, it reels you in. While similar, with several scenes, to Inception, Hypnotic’s “rules” for mind control lack firmness. There’s no clarity like the movies mentioned above. What information audiences get comes out in dumps that feel more for our sake and less for the characters. As such, the characters do not inspire any interest in their welfare. 

Hypnotic still of Dellrayne (William Fichtner) standing in the middle of police with their guns drawn.
Hypnotic still of Dellrayne (William Fichtner)

Visually, the movie can incur smiles because of some similarities to other films, especially Christopher Nolan’s cinematic thrillers. But ultimately, it leaves you comparing, and Hypnotic comes up short. Since the scope of the characters’ capabilities is never clearly given, it’s impossible to feel the tension when Dellrayne (William Fichtner) is in pursuit. They decree he is all-powerful, so his choices are headscratchers until the twist, which, though intriguing, does not feel earned. 

Too Much About Hypnotic Does Not Work

Though the idea present has promise, the delivery fails to cash in on it. Hypnotic sacrifices story and clarity for a striking visual similarity to Nolan’s movies. It depletes the goodwill the film’s opening engenders by the halfway mark. It’s unfortunate since the idea present in the film has blockbuster potential. If only the story and acting delivered. Hypnotic idles in tedium instead of moving at a brisk and engaging pace. Instead of standing distinctly in its genre, it feels like a knockoff. 

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