‘Hypnotic’ Review: A Twisty Thriller Sends Ben Affleck on the Run

Veteran moviegoers have recently complained that mid-budget, character-driven dramas are all but squeezed out by blockbuster series and routine streaming fees. But it’s worse than that. The current state of the industry doesn’t do wonders for tight, low-budget mid-length action thrillers with sci-fi and paranormal developments. So, when I learned that the energetic director Robert Rodriguez, who has worked mainly in YA-colored TV and movies for nearly 10 years, is releasing the suspense thriller “Hypnotic” starring Ben Affleck in theaters. Even casual genre enthusiasts might be interested. Intriguing eyebrows.

Affleck plays Austin, Texas detective Donald Rourke, who was traumatized by the kidnapping of his young daughter several years ago. On a stakeout one day, he and his crew spy on a cold-voiced old man (William Fichtner) whose cryptic words charm a few unfortunate bystanders and force him into a bloody banking operation. Chasing Fichtner’s character into a safety deposit box, Rourke discovers his daughter’s Polaroid with a mysterious message scribbled underneath him.

A phone message leads him to psychic Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), who explains the existence of “hypnosis”, powerful beings who can control others with their words and thoughts. Conveniently, Affleck has a psychic block that makes him immune. But his partner does not. After a gruesome scene in which Rourke’s partner is hypnotized and tries to cut off his own wrists from his handcuffs to kill her, Rourke and Diana must flee to Mexico.

It would have been satisfying if the movie were just the two of them going from action set to action set, with Braga’s character pulling off Jedi mind tricks along the way. After all, Rodriguez has always been a well above average camera director and action choreographer. But he’s aiming for something more ambitious here. As Rourke begins to see the streets of Mexico stretch and twist in the air, the director, who has his own studio in Austin, where the film was shot, is aiming for a homegrown Christopher Nolan version. I agree that it is.

This probably chews up more than “Hypnotic” can comfortably understand, both conceptually and in production. For example, when Affleck confronts psychics in crimson sports jackets, you might think he’s wandered into a Red Lobster senior manager’s convention. The silliness index increases as the scenario turns into a realm of familial emotions with shootouts. But the film at least delivers its audience-pleasing parts so relentlessly and efficiently that truly hungry suspense genre lovers won’t necessarily mind, at least.

Rated R for violence and language. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. at the theater.

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