Director Robert Rodriguez has made a name for himself with fast-paced action films (both adult and kid-friendly), so you have to wonder what he was thinking with the clunky mind-bending thriller Hypnotic
. Supposedly he's been sitting on the script for 20 years or so. Too bad he didn't spend that time fine tuning the logic that makes the film's many (and I do mean many) twists and turns more head-scratching than exciting.
The film centers on Ben Affleck, giving a performance that tows a fine line between brooding and bored. Yes, he's playing a tortured character here, but you can't help but feel some of the torture is the actor realizing that the project he's in is a turkey. He plays police detective Brandon Rourke, who is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his young daughter Millie (Hala Finley). She was kidnapped while he was watching her in the park, and took his eyes off of her for just one second. A suspect has been arrested, but he claims he has no memory of the incident in question, and has plead not guilty. His therapist thinks Brandon needs to go back to work and claim some normalcy in his life. As soon as he sets foot outside of her office, Brandon is dragged into an increasingly complex mystery, and so is the audience.
It all starts when Brandon and his partner are called in on a bizarre bank heist. A mysterious man (William Fichter) immediately grabs our hero's attention, and it's soon discovered that this man can control other people's minds and even their perception of reality with just a few choice words. The man's target is a safe deposit box within the bank, and when Brandon views the contents of said box, he only finds a picture of his missing daughter. Could this mystery man be the key to Millie's disappearance? Ah, if only things were so simple. This is a plot that loves to peel back another layer...and another...and another...Until even the audience can't remember how this whole thing got started. By the time the answers start coming in the third act, I was kind of wishing Rodriguez had tried to make a simple straight-forward thriller, instead of one that intentionally wants to throw us off at every possible opportunity.
I can admire that Hypnotic
is ambitious in its plot, but the tone and pacing are so muted that we can never be engaged. It's not just Affleck's lead performance that is brooding and slow, it's the entire energy that the film gives off. This is obviously the wrong way you want to play this mind-bending material. Stuff like this should be energized, not sad and muted. Maybe Rodriguez was trying to get out of his comfort zone of manic and fast filmmaking, but it simply does not suit him or the story he's trying to tell him. This is a movie that could have used a sense of humor, especially during some of the later reveals. I chuckled when a character is describing how some people have the ability to control minds and reality, and Affleck's partner on the police force says, "Control minds? Wipe out bank accounts? Sounds like my ex-wife". The movie could have used more of that kind of thinking.
As much as the movie is successful at throwing us off course with each and every turn, the humorless and solemn tone kill any hope at grabbing the audience's attention. By the time Affleck is screaming how nothing that is going on around him makes any sense, the audience can only share his frustration.
I'm 95% certain this film is using the plot of an old X-Files episode; some bank robber who can instantly hypnotize people by just talking to them goes after Agent Mulder... who also has a missing family member.
By Berserkasaurus Rex, at 4:52 PM
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