“…a thrill ride in the Hitchcock sense..”
– Director Robert Rodriquez.
Remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) is an unofficial right-of-passage for many auteur directors, and after 21 years of trying, Robert Rodriquez has finally made his. Hypnotic seems to view Hitchcock through the lens of other auteurs’ visions, aligning more with Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Satoshi Kon’s (Paprika) relationship to the Hitch than say Park Chan-Wook (Decision to Leave) or Brian De Palma (Blow Out).
It’s no wonder then that the film has drawn criticism as a sort of B-movie Inception (2011). That critique however, is selling this film short. Ben Affleck (Air) plays Danny Rourke, a Carey Grant (To Catch a Thief) or Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo) type, a noir-shaped police detective on his first day back on the beat after the headline-dominating kidnapping of his own daughter. Assigned to stake out the next target of a mysterious bank-robbing mastermind, Affleck soon finds himself spiraling down a rabbit hole of government conspiracies, international intrigue, and his own daughter’s missing person case. By his side is Alice Braga (The Suicide Squad) as Diana Cruz, a low-rent psychic and hypnotist on the run from her past, which is becoming Affleck’s future.
Together Affleck and Braga bring solid chemistry and down-the-middle performances. Opposing them is the always great character actor William Fichtner (Drive Angry) as the mysterious “Hypnotic” Dellrayne.
Like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (2020) which tells the audience “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.,” or Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress (2001) and it’s shifting relationship to unreliable narration, you can sit down and figure everything out scene by scene, but that’s not really what Rodriquez wants you to do here. The only thing the hypnotic plot device is here to do is make you question every scene, character, and prop, taking you through the same emotional journey as Affleck. Once you’re there, seeing what’s coming next doesn’t matter.
Visually, the film has a polished digital look elevated beyond Rodriquez’s recent works like We Can Be Heroes (2020), with dynamic frames and neo-noir lighting that reminds you that this guy directed Alita: Battle Angel (2019) and Sin City (2005). Even Rodriquez’s trademark un-precious set design and artifice are used to his advantage here, creating a film that’s better to look at the longer it goes on.
It’s not all good news however. Describing the film in the production notes of the press kit, Rodriquez has stated that he wanted to craft “…a thrill ride in the Hitchcock sense, but on steroids because I wanted it to have relentless twists and turns,” which is apt, because Hypnotic is certainly relentless. Despite its gloriously tight 92-minute running time, Hypnotic feels much longer, weighing the viewer down with twist after twist, always leaving you guessing, never resting. Even if you aren’t trying to understand the film at every moment, the interpersonal drama of the characters is so tied to the plot mechanics that emotionally the viewer has no respite, no variation in pacing, turning several sections of the film into unnecessary slogs.
A B-movie in the truest sense, Hypnotic is a fine-enough time, but not universally. If you’re just passing by and thinking about stopping in for the next Inception (2010), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If you’re a nerd for twists, false reality, and noir conspiracy, then it can be a great Saturday night out at the movies.
In theaters May 12th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Hypnotic Ketchup Entertainment webpage or film website.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Categories: In Theaters, Reviews
Leave a Reply