A mind game that’s missing some brain cells.
Robert Rodriguez’s latest movie “Hypnotic” has entered Hitchcock territory, especially since he was inspired by a restored widescreen re-release of “Vertigo.” It has a concept that can work, especially when ingenious thrillers can play mind games, but it doesn’t have the challenges or execution to really ease us in.
I’ve had similar complaints before with “Serenity” and “Reminiscence,” which both look great, but never explore any new possibilities. It starts off with a police raid, which I didn’t really feel like paying attention to, has an interesting mind game idea, becomes a boring fugitive thriller, and has the hero realizing that nothing is what it seems. More of the ideas and less on the cliches would have been enough to make it a perfect Rodriguez possessed by Hitchcock thriller.
Ben Affleck stars as a detective named Danny Rourke, whose daughter Dominique (Hala Finley) has been abducted, and believes that a mysterious figure by the name of Dellrayne (William Fichtner) may know the whereabouts of her, because a picture of the girl was in his safe deposit box. The villain manages to escape by jumping off a building and disappearing without his body in sight.
Rourke is now befuddled by this, but now has the tension to push his own case further.
Alice Braga co-stars as psychic named Diana Cruz, who was associated with Dellrayne, based on her previous activities. When Rourke confronts her for questions, she responds by saying these are people known as “hypnotics,” who can reshape realities and make them seem normal to the victims.” He may be seeing a world that isn’t real. How does she know these things, because she is one.
He and his partner Nicks (JD Pardo) think it’s a joke, until she tests her powers on the latter. And that’s when she confirms that Dellrayne is the most powerful one of all, one who has reached a level that not even their kind has thought could be reachable.
Now, they’re both wanted by the police for killing the possessed Nicks. And when the villain comes across them, Rourke manages to become a hypnotic. This is when he asks Diana to help find his daughter.
The supporting cast also includes Jackie Earle Haley as an enemy, who isn’t who he appears to be, and Dayo Okeniyi as Diana’s guide, who has an eye-patch which he says is “more than meets the eye.” These characters are too standard for my tastes and they’re both played by great actors.
“Hypnotic” looks like it was made by a big studio with its choice of stars, special effects, and production values, all at a budget between $60-$80 million. It’s actually released by Solstice Studios, Ingenious Media, Studio 8, and Double R Productions (formally known as Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios). Maybe it should be released by these smaller studios, because the problem is this concept upstages the characters.
Affleck, Braga, and Fichtner are all fine stars, but they wander around all these amazing-look scenes with the same formulas of other thrillers that are outside this territory. It’s like if the movie needed these formulas to keep the train rolling along. Mind games can be ingenuous and smart. “Vertigo” and “Memento” both proved that, but the key thing is it needs the right material and the right complications to really grab our attention and test our senses.
Rodriguez is a brilliant filmmaker who can entertain the kids with “Spy Kids” and the adults with “Desperado” and “Sin City,” among others,” but he really needs to acknowledge why mind games need to be tested.