Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Distributed by: Ketchup Entertainment
Written by Nick McCann
Robert Rodriguez is the guerilla filmmaker’s golden boy. “El Mariachi” from 1992 was a genuine success story and provided the backbone for much of the beloved director’s career. Even as budgets got bigger and concepts got wilder over the years, there’s always been a trace of that giddy, humble movie fan that achieved his dream. His latest flick sees him returning to his low-resource run-and-gun style.
Described by Rodriguez as something that skirts the line of a Hitchcockian thriller, the premise delivers some of that framework initially before petering out. While I dig the fast pace, a film like this benefits a lot from giving more time and dedicated clarity on key details. The film has a hurried vibe to get to later twists and the parts in between the spectacle from its narrative hook aren’t the most engaging. Even with traces of the director’s old-school low-budget flash, the execution leaves me wondering about potential rewatch value.
The cast tries to make something work but is let down by shallow characterization. Ben Affleck seemed to be on autopilot for a good bit when actually he was playing into the framework of his character. Fine in that sense but a jarring impression all the same. On the flip side, William Fichtner makes for a menacing and mysterious villain and Alice Braga is full go with the material. Then there are Rodriguez regulars like Jeff Fahey and Jackie Earle Haley that enliven the film when they are around.
As far as the hypnosis angle, the movie shows great interest in that and it shows in the action scenes. A lot of it does come off as second-rate Christopher Nolan vibes, watching the mind games play out. Still, there is plenty to spice up a typical foot chase or gunfight. The visual effects look decent too, never coming off as more than what can be afforded. You can tell it’s filmed and edited with distinct intent from Rodriguez, having some visual punch but never muddying the picture. Even the score by his son, Rebel, has good propulsion in its sound and aptly toys with and holds the audience’s attention.
Any kind of entertainment “Hypnotic” has is offset by its jumbled construction. It sits right in an underwhelming middle, not great or terrible. Excuse the cliche but fleshed-out characters and more thought into a story does go a long way. Sure you can watch it and get what was being aimed for. The ride getting there, even with the occasional cool factor and novelty, is rough around the edges. For what it’s worth though, it’s good to know someone like Robert Rodriguez hasn’t forgotten the enthusiasm that made him a distinct filmmaking voice.