Review – Hypnotic

Robert Rodriguez’s latest thriller Hypnotic carries a strong sense of nostalgia with it. Not necessarily in the concept of the film itself, but the tone and atmosphere of the film resembling a Friday night at Blockbuster Video, renting 10 weeklies for $10, buying some microwave popcorn, setting up a bean bag in front of the TV, and watching 90 minutes of the most logically insane, yet constantly intriguing action-packed thriller that your dad picked. And from that point, you immediately fell in love with, and it became a staple film to watch when you needed to scratch that early 2000s thriller itch.

Hypnotic stars Ben Affleck as Danny Rourke, a detective who has taken a 4-year leave of absence after his daughter was kidnapped from a park in broad daylight. With his daughter still missing, and despite not having fully overcome the guilt and harrow he feels, Rourke decides to return to work as it’s the only thing that keeps him sane.

Rourke’s first job back on the force is staking out a bank that was anonymously tipped for a robbery earlier that day. Rourke’s attention is quickly focused on a menacing and peculiar man, Dellrayne (William Fichtner), who is caught on the surveillance microphone oddly chatting to a random woman on a park bench about how hot the weather is, leading to that woman falling under a eyes-wide, soulless-looking trance that sees her strip down to her underwear and cool down under the stream of a fire hydrant as a distraction for Dellrayne to infiltrate the bank.

Intrigued and confused by what he has just witnessed, Rourke bashes his way out of the surveillance van to pursue Dellrayne. Inside the bank and knowing that the thieves are after a safety deposit box, Rourke makes his way to the vault containing the unknown desirables before Dellrayne does, only to find a polaroid photo of his missing daughter. With no time to comprehend what he has found, Rourke is attacked by two bank guards who have been hypnotised by Dellrayne, sending Rourke down a rabbit hole of mystery where the power of hypnosis is used for much darker agendas than anticipated.

As the plot of Hypnotic played out over it’s fast-paced and tightly constructed 92-minute runtime, the suspension of disbelief that is required to understand the ever-evolving logic that this movie throws at you are reminiscent of every sci-fi/thriller that came out in the early 2000s. At one point, a character describes someone else’s ability to deflect the hypnotic attacks as a ‘psychic break’, and I believed that was a real thing, within this film’s world, without an ounce of hesitation. The script penned by the film’s director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn) and Max Borenstein (Godzilla vs Kong), plus Rodriguez’s direction and the performances, deliver a perfect amount of sincerity to the material, that despite how ludicrous it reaches, it all still feels plausible in Hypnotic’s own world. And that makes it an incredibly fun and enjoyable watch.

However, the film does lack the distinguishing elements of Robert Rodriguez’s previous works. Aside from a few neon-lit scenes that are visually engaging, and a few returning favourite actors from his repertoire, Hypnotic does have a generic “any director” feeling to it. The few action scenes that assist in propelling the story along, while featuring some reasonably entertaining and tense moments (a climatic shootout and scene involving a hand cuff acting as highlights for the film), don’t have any extra flair to them in the frenetic and bombastic way that Rodriguez has featured in his filmography. That is not to say that y. That is not to say that Hypnotic required ridiculous action scenes to tell its story, but with a director of his calibre behind the camera, it does leave a little to be desired.

Where this movie really shines is in its unapologetic way of constantly one upping its own story. The unravelling of the mysteries behind how the hypnosis works, who Dellrayne really is, and the overarching character motivator of Rourke’s kidnapped daughter driving the meat of the plot. The reveals throughout Hypnotic may be obvious to some viewers, and completely shocking to others. But the film never tries to overdo itself when it comes to the more intricate sci-fi moments. It’s a simple story, with understandable sci-fi elements that won’t hit you with even crazier logic than its already dishing out, just to trick or confuse the audience even more. The crowd-pleasing style of film this intends to be definitely adds to the overall enjoyment factor.

Plus, all the actors involved seem very on board with what is required. No one is giving the star-studded performances of their careers in Hypnotic, but the main stars like Affleck, Fichtner and Alice Braga do a fine job of balancing leaning into the insanity by delivering some truly out-of-this-world jargon about criminal hypnosis with enough grounded nature to make it feel as authentic and sincere as it needs to be to not be parody.

Hypnotic is not reinventing the sci-fi/thriller wheel, even though the name of Robert Rodriguez could have possibly led to a fresh, original take on the genre. But, the movie is not attempting to do that, rather it’s a truly enjoyable throwback to the corny movies that did this 20 years ago and still live on in our hearts and in our DVD collections to this day.

Hypnotic is in cinemas May 11, courtesy of Roadshow Films.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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