Ben Affleck seems to have kept himself quite busy during the pandemic. When he wasn’t reviving his relationship with singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, whom he finally married in July 2022, he was busy directing, producing and starring in AIR, which is still playing in our cinemas here. He also found time to appear in THE LAST DUEL and THE TENDER BAR, and in writer-director Robert Rodriguez’s (ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL; the SPY KIDS films) slow-burning sci-fi action thriller, HYPNOTIC.
In HYPNOTIC, Affleck plays Austin Police Department detective Danny Rourke, who is haunted by the abduction of his young daughter, Minnie, which took place some time earlier. Strangely, the man who abducted the child can’t recall doing it and he doesn’t know where Minnie is. A tip comes into the police that a bank robbery is about to take place, so he and his partner, “Nicks” (J.D. Pardo, TV’s MAYANS M.C.) head to the scene of the potential crime. We learn that two other recent bank robberies were inside jobs and, in both cases, the people involved can’t recall carrying it out. This time, the police have people and cameras staked out around the bank. The tip line caller says that the mastermind behind the robbery is after the contents of a certain safety deposit box, and while chaos is erupting outside the bank, Rourke goes inside to see what’s in the box. In it, he finds a Polaroid of his daughter with the caption “Lev Dellrayne”. Outside, he meets a mysterious man whom he assumes is Dellrayne (William Fichtner, TV’s PRISON BREAK) but the man, who possesses a strange psychokinetic ability to hypnotize people with just a few words and actions, is able to get away. The trail leads Rourke to Diana Cruz (Alice Braga, THE SUICIDE SQUAD), a tarot card reader who seems to know something about the mysterious man. Together, they track him down in hopes that he will lead them to Rourke’s daughter.
If you haven’t heard of HYPNOTIC, you’re not alone. Its original American distributor, Solace Studios, went bankrupt late last year, which left the film in limbo for a short time. It was then picked up by Ketchup Entertainment, a distribution company whose biggest release so far has been LINSANITY, the documentary about NBA star Jeremy Lin, in October 2013. A rough cut of HYPNOTIC was shown at SXSW in March of this year and it must have garnered some positive feedback because it was then decided to release the film to cinemas.
Now the question is “Is it any good”. In a word, no. It’s a total dumpster fire and I can’t imagine what the audience at SXSW could have liked about this film. HYPNOTIC is a mixture of INCEPTION, REMINISCENCE, the X-MEN series, a few other films of this ilk, and TAKEN. Not only is there nothing original here, Rodriguez can’t even keep his story straight. If the mysterious man and others are so good at mind-f***ery, why is there a need to build physical structures for these people to run around in? Just sit them down in a chair, do your mojo on them and let their minds do the rest. But that’s barely half of what’s wrong with this film. When the story enters X-MEN territory in the third act, it just becomes laughable to watch them all try to out-manipulate each other using just their eyes. The icing on the cake, however, comes with the film’s mid-credit scene that sets the story up for a possible sequel. Heaven help us.
HYPNOTIC opens in Hong Kong’s cinemas on Thursday (May 11) and in the US the next day. It really is awful. Go see AIR instead.
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