Review by Sean Boelman
Ben Affleck and Robert Rodriguez are such A-list talents in their respective fields that it’s immediately suspect when their collaboration is being released by a relatively new studio as their first big theatrical push, and not one of the major movie houses. After seeing Hypnotic, it’s immediately clear why: this is an absolute travesty of filmmaking.
In the film, Affleck plays a detective who, in the search for his lost daughter, finds himself caught up in a bizarre and mind-bending mystery involving a series of bank robberies that seemingly defy the rules of reality. The high-concept sci-fi premise is initially intriguing, but when it becomes clear how derivative and nonsensical it is, its welcome wears off quickly.
The fundamental flaw of Hypnotic is that it attempts to set up a wide and expansive world in a mere ninety minutes. The result is that a solid 75% of the film is exposition that attempts to explain everything that is happening and why. Unfortunately, Rodriguez doesn’t seem to trust his audience here, resulting in some of the most stupefyingly dumb dialogue you will see in any major motion picture this year.
The short runtime also does the film no favors when it comes to character development. Everything about the film feels rushed. All of the backstory for the characters is delivered through exposition because there’s simply not enough time for us to learn about them in a more natural way. The result is that we end up being frustratingly unable to connect with any of the characters.
It genuinely feels as if Ben Affleck is sleepwalking through his performance — and unless Rodriguez has just made the pinnacle of meta filmmaking, where Affleck was actually hypnotized into making this film — it’s probably the worst turn of his career. The few recognizable names in the supporting cast — Jackie Earle Haley, William Fichtner, and Alice Braga — can’t be faulted as much, but that’s because they’re not really given anything to do.
However, the most unforgivable sin of Hypnotic is that the action sequences are simply boring. After the first few times, it starts to become laughable watching people who are hypnotized move stiffly to point guns at one another. Car chases and shootouts attempt to add excitement to the mix, but are blandly choreographed and shot in a way that doesn’t do it any favors.
The fact that this film reportedly cost $65 million to make is somewhat baffling. Although there are a few big set pieces and some explosions that were certainly costly, it doesn’t really show in the rest of the film. The production design is minimalistic and uninspired, and the CGI looks like cheap imitations of other, better sci-fi films that came before — most notably Inception.
Robert Rodriguez has made some great action movies in the past, but Hypnotic disappointingly will not be joining those ranks. Instead, what we get is bafflingly bad, perhaps even one of the worst major theatrical releases of the decade so far.
Hypnotic hits theaters on May 12.