The mystery thriller HYPNOTIC gave director Robert Rodriguez and his leading actor Ben Affleck the worst film start of their careers. The lack of marketing is probably not the only reason for this. On top of that, the film is an absolute disaster.
OT: Hypnotic (USA 2023)
That’s what it’s about
Since his daughter was kidnapped, desperate detective Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) has taken refuge in his work as a detective. One day he and his partner Randy Nicks (JD Pardo) are called to a bank robbery. But suddenly the alleged perpetrator (William Fichtner) reveals himself to be involved in the kidnapping of Rourke’s daughter, which culminates in a huge conspiracy before the father’s eyes. Together with the mysterious Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), he sets out to search for clues to the whereabouts of the missing girl, but soon realizes that he has become the target of a group hypnotics to name. These are able to manipulate people’s perceptions. And soon Danny Rourke can no longer trust his own…
After its world premiere at the South by Southwest film festival, the mystery thriller “Hypnotic” opened regularly in US cinemas in May of this year. The collaboration between director and screenwriter Robert Rodriguez (“Alita: Battle Angel”) and its leading star Ben Affleck (“Gone Girl – The Perfect Victim”) one would have expected a solid first weekend. But even with the only reasonably big parallel release – “Book Club 2: A New Chapter” – “Hypnotic” couldn’t keep up. With just $940,000 from over 2,100 theaters, the film became the weakest start in the careers of Rodriguez and Affleck, resulting in a gross of just $8.7 million; with production costs of over 65 million! Now “Hypnotic” has not yet been released in some larger film nations such as France or Spain and the studio blamed the terrible record of previous release countries primarily on the lack of marketing. But the predominantly negative reporting and, not least, the lack of good word of mouth may also have contributed to the box office disaster. Ultimately, this just reflects the fact that “Hypnotic” itself is no less a disaster.
William Fichtner as Ober-hypnotic and villain Lev Dellrayne.
The screenplay for “Hypnotic” has existed since 2002. Robert Rodriguez himself referred to it several times as one of his own favourites. Nevertheless, he decided to bring Max Borenstein, who was involved in “Godzilla” among other things, on board as a co-author. Now, looking back, it is difficult to judge whether exactly the is the problem with the finished film, or whether the script for “Hypnotic” was doomed from the start anyway. In any case, the end result seems so confusing that the film can hardly be described as more than one To have failed. “Hypnotic” actually starts promisingly and in the best (psychological) thriller style and establishes the main character Danny Bourne, played by Ben Affleck, as an emotionally unstable father after his daughter is kidnapped. His only real purpose in life: to find her again – and to distract himself from it in his job as an investigator. This puts him on the trail of an apparent bank robber who must also have been involved in the kidnapping of his daughter. The fact that he also seems to have supernatural abilities and that Danny meets a no less mysterious woman while investigating this confusing matter reveals: Rodriguez and Borenstein are extremely ambitious in their thinking. Because anyone who opens up so many narrative threads and levels of action right from the start requires even more expertise to bring them all together in a reasonably plausible way at the end.
“‘Hypnotic’ actually starts promisingly and in the best (psychological) thriller style and establishes the main character Danny Bourne, played by Ben Affleck, as an emotionally unstable father after his daughter’s kidnapping.”
Surprisingly accurate the not even the core problem of “Hypnotic”. When all the mysteries are solved in the finale and seemingly unimportant details become more important in retrospect, the film – given the circumstances – comes to a full circle. The problem lies in the fact that everything between The exposition and ending hit numerous rough, outrageous and sometimes contradictory hooks in the internal logic of the film. Apart from the one big one Twist in the second third of the film, “Hypnoticism” has so many arbitrary, far-fetched twists that after a certain moment it is almost impossible to view a scene with curiosity and an open mind. Again and again the authors reduce a newly constructed construct to absurdity. A completely overused motif. Now the premise itself invites you to place “Hypnotic” on as shaky a foundation as possible. Finally, there are the titular ones hypnotics able to change people’s perceptions to their own liking. But Robert Rodriguez doesn’t just force a continuous one through his style “Maybe none of this is real?”-Thoughts, but rather the fear that in the next scene completely different film rules will apply than before. Who appears or can appear powerful to whom, when, varies arbitrarily. Depending on what this or that scene needs for suspense reasons. The motivations of all the characters, especially the villains, are twisted so often that they even lose their threat; Ultimately it’s about good versus evil, simply because good is good and evil is evil. At least on the home stretch (which is very clearly reminiscent of “X-Men”), something like motives can still be found one recognize the characters, but it takes a few minutes until then…
Ben Affleck doesn’t cover himself with fame in the lead role as Detective Danny Rourke.
… which the very actor who probably did himself the least favors by being involved in “Hypnotic” has to carry on his shoulders. Ben Affleck seemed to have long since been rehabilitated after films like “Gone Girl”, “The Last Duel” and most recently “Air” (which he even directed); Previous and all too familiar acting sins seemed forgotten. “Hypnotic” is now likely to develop into a film that, in retrospect, can be placed next to complete failures like “Gigli” in order to deny Affleck the status of a good actor. Rarely has the “Batman” actor sleepwalked through a film in such an unambitious manner. His role actually offers enough opportunities for emotional support. But no matter whether his Danny just realized that his daughter has disappeared, he is aware of the existence of the hypnotics experiences or has to watch his partner being gunned down: Affleck refuses to make any facial expressions. The action scenes also lack dynamism without a hint of passion. For Alice Braga, who spends a large part of the running time at Affleck’s side (“The Suicide Squad”) It would have been easy to take control of what was happening. Unfortunately, she is much more likely to be infected by her colleague’s lethargy. The only person who seems to understand the nonsense around him is William Fichtner (“Operation: 12 Strongs”) as the main villain Lev Dellrayne. His role could have used even more eccentricity, but despite the handbrake being applied too much, he steals the show in his few appearances, but falls short of being a villainparody stand.
Visually, “Hypnotic” was primarily inspired by recent Christopher Nolan films. Thematically it even fits. The director who is currently successful with “Oppenheimer” often plays with different levels of perception and primarily time. Rodriguez unabashedly quotes “Inception” and “Tenet”, but – partly because of the budget – never comes close to the technical class of his role model. That of cameraman Pablo Berron (“Happier than Ever”) and Robert Rodriguez himself conjured up, pale, muddy monotony doesn’t gain in aesthetics even with “houses suddenly shift” or “the street folds over” jokes. “Hypnotic” just looks bland; Even the tens of millions of dollars budget cannot be seen in the finished result. The attempt to instead create memorable moments on a small scale also fails. For example, when the film is supposed to suggest to us that a person has been waiting for months, if not years, in the middle of a chain of dominoes to be saved – only for the person who saves them to dramatically collapse this chain at the moment of reunion. In such scenes it becomes apparent Style over substance-Thought that “Hypnotic” cannot fulfill due to limited resources. As a result, the film ultimately does not work on any of the numerous levels of perception it aims to achieve. It would have had so much more potential if Rodriguez hadn’t crammed the film so much.
“’Hypnotic’ just looks bland; Even the tens of millions of dollars budget cannot be seen in the finished result. Trying to create memorable moments on a small scale instead also fails.”
Conclusion: “Hypnotic” begins ambitiously, but Robert Rodriguez gets entangled in his supernaturally-tinged mystery thriller in its numerous approaches, which eventually become completely tangled up after too many attempted twists. To pass as an entertaining trash spectacle, the film lacks the pace and madness. Instead, you watch Ben Affleck sleepwalk through ugly lit settings for an hour and a half.
“Hypnotic” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 10th.