“Hypnotic” is what audiences get when they order a Christopher Nolan film from Wish.com.
It’s not a bad film, but rather extremely derivative and overly ambitious as its narrative reach exceeds its creative grasp and stumbles to a somewhat unsatisfying third act and final reveal. Thankfully, star Ben Affleck delivers a strong performance that carries the weight of a fractured script on his back. Director Robert Rodriguez makes a surprising turn with a film that’s more neo noir than his gritty budget action repertoire that put him on the map.
Affleck stars as Danny Rourke, a detective still reeling from the kidnapping of his daughter right in front of him. After returning to the force, he has to investigate a bank robbery in which one man pulls off a multi-faceted heist with simple commands to other people. William Fichtner’s Dellrayne comes off as mysterious as he is terrifying. He always seems one step ahead and can command anyone to do anything — even murder — with a simple spoken word. Rourke learns more about Dellrayne and his kind, hypnotics, from Diana Cruz, a psychic fortune teller with a long history with a mysterious government-adjacent agency formed to coordinate psychics. These hypnotics are able to control what other people see, making them do whatever the person wants. Nothing anyone sees on screen can be trusted until the final credits roll as the story continues to offer twist upon twist.
The movie starts out extremely promising as the mystery slowly unfolds and more information is revealed about Dellrayne and the history of hypnotics. But much like how Rourke is often misdirected throughout the film, audiences are being misdirected with at least two concurrent storylines that play out alongside each other. It becomes almost a parody of Nolan’s “Inception” with multiple layers of storylines and realities stacked upon one another. But Nolan’s scripts — that can admittedly be heavy handed — still manage to intertwine intrigue and tension while keeping the story unpredictable until the end. Aspects of “Memento” are still debated more than a decade later.
But the more “Hypnotic” explains its story, its history and its premise, the weaker it becomes. The script just doesn’t have the narrative heft in character development of either Rourke or Cruz and the story revelations are some of the most uninspired and uninteresting directions Rodriguez and company could have taken the story. The script feels like a film student inspired by seeing “Inception” for the first time as a child decided to write their own homage to it. “Hypnotic” is glorified fan fiction — a weak attempt to copy someone’s homework without changing much.
Even with the admittedly weak script, Affleck still delivers a strong performance. He channels Tom Cruise’s turn as a cop searching for his missing son in “Minority Report” — another film from which “Hypnotic” borrows heavily — and does a surprisingly good job of playing a loving father. As Affleck ages, he continues to show greater range in his roles. “Hypnotic” might not go down as little more than an IMDb page filler in the future, but Affleck still delivers.
“Hypnotic” is not a bad film if one views it as the Great Value Christopher Nolan experience with better action. It’s surprising how restrained Rodriguez feels both behind the camera and through the lens. His usual gritty, over-the-top action is replaced with very methodical, brutal sequences here that are tempered with slick CG and camera direction. It would have been nice to see some different story choices made and some more inspired script writing, but “Hypnotic” is an enjoyable B-film, which are sorely missed in theaters these days.
“Hypnotic” is available now in theaters.
Josh Rouse lives in Lawton and writes a weekly review for The Lawton Constitution.