Hypnotic Movie Review: Ben Affleck’s Psychological Thriller Loses Steam Quickly

Review: Ben Affleck stars in Robert Rodriguez’s underwhelming new movie Hypnotic, where he unfurls a government operation too convoluted to coherently translate to screen.

Ben Affleck in Hypnotic movie
Ben Affleck, Hypnotic

Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic pales in comparison to other psychological thrillers in this lane. The movie is incoherent in concept, and flimsy in execution. While at times aware of its own flaws and delusion, the movie never commits to the bit enough to make it worthwhile, instead offering a mix of poorly constructed characters in an even more poorly constructed environment.

This is in part due to the film’s short runtime as Hypnotic clocks in at a lean 94 minutes. While this is also the movie’s saving grace as it doesn’t overstay its welcome too much, Rodriguez’s latest doesn’t have enough time to get off the ground before inevitably dishing out what’s operating behind the scenes. There’s not enough buildup to strengthen the reveals, and the reveals aren’t shocking enough to reinvigorate the buildup.

So what’s left in Hypnotic is a flat narrative, empty of compelling or unique elements that make complete sense. I like movies like Hypnotic, but they’re often open for deeper analysis and interpretations. Christopher Nolan and M. Night Shyamalan came to mind often while watching Hypnotic, but movies like Inception and Unbreakable don’t stretch themselves thin to the point of exhaustion. They don’t feel like homework on the first watch, or ninth watch.

Hypnotic loosely follows Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) and his ongoing determination to find his daughter Minnie (Hala Finley), who was kidnapped at a local park while under the unwatchful eye of Danny. He’s a Detective for the Austin Police Department, splitting time between investigating crime and receiving therapy for his role in his daughter’s kidnapping. Following an anonymous tip that leads him to a city bank, Rourke enters into a psychological rabbit hole that leads him to the world of hypnosis – one that may lead him to his daughter and help him understand the fractured world that he lives in.

This is about as far as I can coherently piece together a synopsis for Hypnotic, which becomes an increasingly (and purposefully) confusing watch as it goes on. Ben Affleck acts as a cipher for this world, taking in new set pieces and twists with the audience. It’s because of this that it’s hard to be surprised that Affleck is mostly mumbling through this movie, using just enough charisma to feel sentient and (hopefully) earn a fat paycheck for appearing in this thing.

Perhaps you’ll think of Gone Girl like I did during my time with Hypnotic for Affleck’s apparent interest in stripping away his own fame to play a gnarled, weathered soul. This movie occasionally toys with Affleck’s perceived distant personality in the media, using it to establish Danny Rourke’s position in Hypnotic similarly to Affleck’s position in Hollywood.

But if that’s the case, there isn’t much of a statement beyond that in Hypnotic on Ben Affleck as a performer or person. Affleck doesn’t do these types of movies anymore, opting instead to make thoughtful dramas over average action fodder. Maybe he’s just washing his hands from the Batman residue, but the palate isn’t completely cleansed given the poor quality of his latest performance.

Alice Braga costars as Affleck’s love interest/hypnotic partner Diana Cruz and instills the movie’s only interesting or lively turn. She’s handed a few of the plot twists, able to mask their unmannered approach or execution. She’s essentially playing multiple characters at once and does her best with the material she’s given.

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And despite my disinterest in the mechanics of Hypnotic and the world that this movie builds, I couldn’t help but feel like Robert Rodriguez really wanted this film to work. It’s a zany premise with lackluster results in making it feel distinct, but Rodriguez tries to build suspense and thrill along the way, creating a few moments of tension to keep you from wanting to glance away too often.

Thematically, Hypnotic throws a lot at you about family and government interference without much of it sticking. It seems more interested in playing with genre and form, and less interested in exploring ideas through that new technique. I’ve never been one to expect expansive underlying messages in the movies of Robert Rodriguez, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise as it largely follows his common mold.

The cinematography from Rodriguez and Pablo Berron stands out as certainly being a choice, switching from a yellow/beige design to more natural colors as the movie begins to unfurl itself. I didn’t find it too distracting until the second act, where Hypnotic crosscuts between the real world and Danny Rourke’s interpretation. The movie spins too many plates at this point, getting lost in a messy edit only comprehensible by a shifting color scheme.

But like I mentioned earlier, at least Hypnotic mostly understands its role as a B-side psychological thriller. It’s certainly not on the same scale as some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, and it relishes in its audacious premise and tries to have fun in the margins. If a more committed Ben Affleck showed up, and the script knew when to hit the brakes, there may have been a better movie here at play. Instead, Hypnotic lands with a quiet thud and leaves without a trace.

Rating

Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Where to watch Hypnotic: Peacock, VOD

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Film Cast and Credits

Hypnotic movie poster

Cast:

Ben Affleck as Danny Rourke

Alice Braga as Diana Cruz

J.D. Pardo as Nicks

Dayo Okeniyi as River

Jeff Fahey as Carl

William Fichtner as Dellrayne

Hala Finley as Minnie

Crew:

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: Robert RodriguezMax Borenstein

Cinematography: Robert RodriguezPablo Berron

Editor: Robert Rodriguez

Composer: Rebel Rodriguez

Hypnotic movie on Letterboxd

Hypnotic movie on IMDb