As producer of copious TV shows, and with excursions into the realm of music videos and digital concert experiences, Robert Rodriguez has been anything but idle in the past years. Still, Hypnotic marks something of a comeback for the cult director, after a four-year absence from cinemas. Consequently, expectations are high – too high for this generic thriller to keep up with.
After detective Danny Rourke’s (Ben Affleck) daughter is abducted, a suspect is apprehended but he claims to possess no memory of the crime, and the child is never found. One day on the job, Rourke and his partner encounter a strange phenomenon whereby a bank robber (William Fichtner) exerts mind control over witnesses, tellers and even police officers. When Rourke finds a picture of his daughter in the targeted safe deposit box, he becomes convinced that so-called hypnotics have taken her, and he is willing to do everything in his power to get her back.
M Night Shyamalan knows a thing or two about it: an ambitious, mind-bending mystery tale such as this is only ever as good as its twist. Unfortunately, this is where Hypnotic shoots itself in the foot, with an unimaginative blend of overused revelations, turns and conclusions. One cliché after the other ensures that the audience don’t have to engage with what is presented: everything is pre-chewed for easy consumption and filled to the brim with exposition.
The film’s 93 minutes constitute the longest screen time for Affleck this year, and yet in the roughly five minutes he appeared in Air and The Flash, respectively, he was given more substantive material to work with and delivered sharper performances.
In its entire setup, Hypnotic seems to have fallen out of time and feels more like a 90s production than anything remotely current, but the upside of this strange anachronism are the solid lighting and camerawork, digital effects and editing. The music composed by the director’s son, Rebel Rodriguez, is equally steady, and able to save some of the scenes in which the lazy writing fails to arouse sufficient tension to propel the plot.
While it may succeed in making viewers nostalgic for times when even the mediocre-to-bad thrillers had satisfying production value, Hypnotic doesn’t offer much incentive to rush to the cinemas. However, once it inevitably hits streaming platforms, it is a rather safe viewing choice to unwind and put one’s feet up to.
Hypnotic is released in select cinemas on 26th May 2023.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Hypnotic here: