Once an iconic independent filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez continues to build his own ecosystem outside of Hollywood. In some cases, this has resulted in big wins, including the lucrative Spy Kids franchise. In other cases, his projects have struggled to make much of an impact. Combining forces with James Cameron and Ben Affleck opened Rodriguez to more success in the future. Unfortunately, his latest thriller, Hypnotic is dead on arrival. Even with Affleck working to keep the audience engaged, Rodriguez’s story crumbles under its own weight.
Detective Danny Rourke (Affleck) gets an emergency call about a bank robbery. When he arrives to investigate, he finds a photo of his missing daughter. Suddenly, he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with a psychic named Dellrayne (William Fichtner). Rourke’s investigation leads him to another psychic, Diana (Alice Braga). The two are swept into a conspiracy as Rourke searches for his daughter.
Rodriguez often works with high concept stories. Yet Hypnotic quickly becomes too weighty for its own good. Hypnotic wants to be a Memento style throwback, combining elements of film noire with mind-bending fantasy. Yet it introduces “twists” so frequently, it quickly becomes meaningless. It becomes a “you know, that I know, that you know, that I know” story, where everyone is omniscient. This does not make for alluring or interesting storytelling.
Affleck attempts to keep Hypnotic afloat. He does his best impression of a cop with a dark past. This will not go into his hall-of-fame, but he brings intrigue with his brooding performance. This becomes a necessity, as every other character does little to hide their intentions.
Both Braga and Fichtner wear their true intentions on their sleeves. It’s nearly impossible to feel intrigue based on their arcs, mostly due to the overwritten screenplay. It does not help that they have no chemistry with Affleck, seemingly acting against blank spaces over and over again. One truly wonders if they even shared some of the shots with another actor at all.
Rodriguez also struggles to keep to established rules within his universe. As the story changes, new powers are introduced without explanation. The world building or purpose for the story never feels clear. Hypnotic also fails when the twists and turns rely on new power sets introductiona. It removes all stakes from the story and Hypnotic withers as a result.
While there will undoubtedly be some who champion Hypnotic, this feels like one to instantly forget. It struggles to accomplish basic storytelling beats, and wastes an Affleck performance to boot. Rodriguez certainly thrives in his style, but Hypnotic feels overburdened with ideas that do not fully connect. As a result, it becomes a poor genre flick with limited rewatch appeal.