Some movies look good on paper but end up being disasters. Hypnotic is such a movie, where an intriguing idea ends up muddled to nonsensical because the people behind it were trying to be too clever.
Austin Detective Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) is still haunted by the disappearance of his daughter Minnie. He still needs to work though, and his new case involves a series of bank robberies that now target the city of Austin. Rourke notices something strange about the potential mastermind: he appears to hypnotize everyone he comes across.
Rourke goes ahead with trying to stop the robbery, but when he goes to the targeted safety deposit box, he is stunned to find a picture of Minnie and a cryptic message: "Find Lev Dellrayne". He soon turns to psychic Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), who tells him that the mysterious Dellrayne (William Fitchner) is a powerful hypnotic, someone able to make people do anything he wants. Rourke, however, has a powerful block that prevents Dellrayne from taking his mind.
Rourke and Cruz join forces to solve the myriad of mysteries, with Dellrayne in pursuit. From here, Hypnotic takes more twists and turns. I'll give the spoilers I remember; everything we have seen is in truth a simulation. Rourke himself is a hypnotic, who hid his own daughter from "The Division", a powerful shadowy organization bent on using the super-child Minnie for their own nefarious purposes. As things become more convoluted, we find that not even what we do see is what is.
Robert Rodriguez has had a checkered career. He's gone from the heights of El Mariachi to the depths of The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl. To be fair, I have faint memories of the former and never saw the latter. I think that Hypnotic has a good skeleton of a story (a crime drama with supernatural overtones) but it collapses onto itself when it tried to give us a "big twist". For the first third of the film, Hypnotic builds up an interesting premise.
However, once we find out that Rourke is not only a hypnotic himself but that what we have seen up to that point is essentially a lie, you start stretching plausibility. Hypnotic seems almost obsessed with trying to be so clever and intricate that it ends up laughable. Drawing from other films such as Inception and The Matrix, Hypnotic makes no sense.
If the Division knew Rourke was raised by foster parents, why did they not monitor their movements to see if Rourke would contact them? Given that Rourke and Vivian (Kelly Frye), his current wife? Ex-wife? Diana Cruz avatar? had conceived this super-child, why or how did they end up being the first super-hypnotic couple to procreate? It might have been one thing if neither knew that the other was hypnotic, but Hypnotic suggests that they did.
Some of the visual effects are cheap looking (the trains going over Rourke's head look like a theme park projection). A lot of Hypnotic could be forgiven, but Rodriguez and his cowriter Max Borenstein seemed more focused on showing how clever they are versus what is on the screen.
Hypnotic is almost universally badly acted. Though a fine director, Ben Affleck is not a good actor. Here, he is worse than usual. Looking bored (or confused), with a surprisingly odd growly voice, Affleck sleepwalks throughout the film. To be fair, the same cannot be said for Braga as Cruz, but that is not a compliment. She seems to overcompensate for Affleck's lack of interest by being too big. J.D. Pardo as Rourke's partner Nicks reminded me of Mark Ruffalo's character in Shutter Island (which Hypnotic seems to steal from too).
Fitchner is the only one who seems to have saved himself from this debacle. He has a menace throughout the film, even if at times it does slip into camp.
Hypnotic is enjoyable in a comically bad way. It is the type of film one can laugh at in the desperate efforts to be twisty and intricate. While I doubt Hypnotic will be the worst film of the year, it is highly likely to end up somewhere on many lists of the same.