The Movie Waffler New to VOD - HYPNOTIC | The Movie Waffler


A detective and a psychic investigate a series of strange crimes.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, JD Pardo, Hala Finley, Dayo Okeniyi, Jeff Fahey, Jackie Earle Haley

Hypnotic poster

Even if you're not a fan of his movies (and, personally, I can't say I'm too fond of them), you have to admire the independent spirit of Robert Rodriguez. He literally sold his blood to fund his micro-budget debut, El Mariachi, and has since gone on to fund his own studio and even a TV channel, employing family and friends in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Acting as writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer, composer et al, Rodriguez has proven himself skilled at making the most of a limited budget. Filmmakers accustomed to working wonders with limited means can often struggle when they're gifted a large budget however. Give Rodriguez $10,000 and he'll deliver a million dollar movie. Trouble is, if you give him $70 million, he'll also deliver a million dollar movie.

$70 million is roughly the budget of his latest, Hypnotic - on which Rodriguez serves as director, writer (with his son Max Borenstein), producer, editor and cinematographer (with Pablo Berron) - but save for the star presence of Ben Affleck, you can't help but wonder where the money went, as it looks cheaper than many of Rodriguez's low-budget productions.

Hypnotic review

We're very much in throwback territory with Hypnotic, but it's never quite clear which period of filmmaking Rodriguez is aping. It opens like something Don Siegel might have made in the 1970s, with Affleck's gruff cop Danny Rourke resembling Harry Callahan with his sneering square jaw and exposed shoulder holster. We find Rourke in the middle of one of those classic psych evaluations troubled movie cops are always being forced to attend. In this case it's due to Rourke's obsession with finding his young daughter, who was abducted from a park several years ago. Rourke is judged fit for duty and immediately finds himself in a stock cop movie scenario when he receives a tip-off that a bank is about to be robbed.

The ensuing set-piece probably read well on paper. Rourke spots a sinister looking man played by the sinister looking actor William Fichtner, who seems to be speaking to code to various people, including a couple of armed guards. Turns out the man, Lev Dellrayne, is a "hypnotic", who can use his powers to put people under his spell and have them aid him in pulling off major crimes. After messing with Rourke's mind, Dellrayne makes his escape, leading Rourke to team up with Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a psychic who reveals herself to also be a hypnotic, though one whose powers aren't as strong as those of Dellrayne. Believing Dellrayne is somehow connected to his daughter's disappearance, Rourke becomes determined to track him down with Diana's aid.

Hypnotic review

Hypnotic was reputedly originally conceived back in 2002, but you'd be forgiven for assuming Rodriguez had come up with the idea in the wake of Christopher Nolan's Inception. Much of Hypnotic plays like a fanfic version of a Nolan movie, complete with a brooding male protagonist and his victimised female family member. Rodriguez even employs the landscape folding in on itself effect from Inception, which of course was originally devised by FW Murnau for his 1922 movie Phantom. But everything else about the awful script suggests it was written in the early '90s, possibly as a vehicle for Stallone, and I mean Frank Stallone. There are even moments where the obligatory nudity of that era would have neatly slotted in - Dellrayne using his hypnotic powers to encourage a woman to strip as a distraction, Diana taking a shower and eventually bedding Rourke - but of course in these chaste times we simply fade to black as though it's 1936.

Everything about the production feels cheap, from the bland TV-esque lighting to a terrible score composed by Rodriguez's son Rebel. When Jeff Fahey pops up, the feeling that you're watching a straight to video movie from 1991 is cemented. There is a motorbike chase scene that briefly reminds us Rodriguez knows how to cobble together an action scene, but otherwise we're left to spend most of the mercifully brief runtime watching characters explain the plot to one another in various rooms.

Hypnotic review

The script is an example of how not to write for a visual medium. It's a constant stream of exposition, most of it delivered by Braga in a role that does her no favours while Affleck looks on with an expression that suggests he's only now realising what a terrible movie he's agreed to appear in. Suspense and tension are entirely absent, because the script is structured in a manner that tries so hard to outsmart the audience it only ends up frustrating and confusing us. You'll probably guess the ultimate twist simply because it's the only way to plausibly explain some of the inconsistencies riddled throughout the plot.

In this era when it's so rare for Hollywood to greenlight an original movie with a decent budget and a major star, it's a shame for that gamble to backfire as badly as Hypnotic. Is there really such a glut of original scripts that we have to make do with one dusted off from 20 years ago? And how does someone like Affleck, a competent screenwriter in his own right, read a script as bad as Hypnotic and think it could possibly work? Did Rodriguez employ some hypnotic powers of his own to convince everyone involved they were working on a good movie?

 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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