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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Hypnotic: Review

Hypnotic Synopsis: When a detective learns that his missing daughter and a string of high-profile bank robberies might be connected, he must go on a mind-bending journey to find his daughter and stop the secret government agency behind the madness.

A vengeful detective searching for his missing daughter confronts a powerful hypnotist with mind-altering capabilities in Hypnotic.

Following a pre-production process marred by dysfunction, Hypnotic arrives in theaters as a fascinating anomaly. The film is a high-concept, sci-fi thriller ripped from a bygone era where projects like Minority Report, The Island, Deja Vu, and Paycheck made a routine out of disorienting viewers' expectations. Reigniting this trend is a novel concept on paper, especially when the talents of writer/director Robert Rodriguez and star Ben Affleck are guiding the ship.

Unfortunately for Hypnotic, I would say the film lands on an entirely different list. Like The Book of Henry and Serenity before it, Hypnotic is transfixing trainwreck that will only engage viewers from the sheer bewilderment it causes.

I don't want to spoil what happens in Hypnotic past any initial plot synopsis, and I almost dare viewers curious by its relation to two recent so-bad-their-almost-good cult classics to see the film as blindly as possible. What I can say about Hypnotic is it attempts an intriguing high-wire act but constantly gets in its own way throughout the process.

In terms of story, I can't help appreciating the audacious risks Rodriguez and Max Borenstein take here. Not enough features today reach for the moon with pie-in-the-sky ambition in the ways Hypnotic dedicates to its gamut of twists and turns. If only what the film boasted in creative gumption resulted in a satisfying yarn to untangle. Far too often, Hypnotic's idealism is reduced by conventional plot mechanics and clunky dialogue exchanges. Much of the narrative plays out like a reheated NCIS episode half-heartedly altered by a few sci-fi flourishes. None of the characters and plot mechanics of the first two acts generate interest, and while a third act shift introduces clever opportunities to reflect on the film's generic structure, Hypnotic never engages with itself in thematically inspired ways.

Hypnotic's deficiencies drag down everyone involved. Ben Affleck is passable yet uninspired as a detective stuck in a mental quandary. Without any textures to latch onto, Affleck is stuck going through the motions in his usual jaded leading man shtick. The supporting cast, which features Alice Braga and character actor favorite William Fichtner, also seems unenthused by their half-written roles.

Perhaps what's most disappointing is the lack of presence Rodriguez establishes behind the director's chair. I've grown to love Rodriguez's work for the stylistic mania he imbues; the auteur's pure kineticism always finds ways to capture the imagination of his material. With Hypnotic, Rodriguez oversees a shockingly janky production. Quick-cut edits, blurred camera movements, and half-hearted renditions at aping Inception's subversive imagery are absent of the spirited vigor featured in Rodriguez's past work. That said, I would be hard-pressed to blame Rodriguez or any of his creative collaborators entirely for the film's failures. Hypnotic was likely mangled during its arduous post-production, with shoddy storytelling gaps and a breathless 93-minute runtime serving as the ultimate tell-tale signs of a sanitized studio product.

Years from now, I can see film enthusiasts viewing Hypnotic as a mesmerizing cadaver for dissection. It's irresistible to prod at a movie that feels so deformed from what its creators initially intended. While it's sure to stimulate some entranced by its failures, Hypnotic is only enjoyable as an autopsy, not an actual movie.

Hypnotic is now playing in theaters.


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