mon 15/04/2024

Hypnotic review - a riotously enjoyable thriller | reviews, news & interviews

Hypnotic review - a riotously enjoyable thriller

Hypnotic review - a riotously enjoyable thriller

Ben Affleck stars in Robert Rodriguez's cunning brain-twister

Mind blown: Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck) and Diana Cruz (Alice Braga)

Masterminded by writer-director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids etc), Hypnotic is a speedy, twisty, riotously enjoyable thriller that seeks to bend your mind into impossible shapes while also delivering more than a few droll wisecracks.

Ben Affleck, seemingly reinvigorated as half of  "Bennifer 2", is bang on the money here as Austin PD detective Danny Rourke. When he’s called out to investigate a tip-off about a bank heist, he finds himself tumbling down a rabbit-hole where time, space and identity itself all get swirled in a kaleidoscopic blender.

Already, things haven’t been going too well for Danny. He’s still in therapy, trying to cope with the shocking abduction of his young daughter Minnie when he’d taken her out for a day in the park. There’s no trace of her whereabouts, and it’s only his work, he reckons, that’s keeping him sane.

But as the cops stake out the bank robbery, it starts to become apparent that this is no routine stick-’em-up job. A stony-faced man (William Fichtner, pictured right) sits beside a woman on a park bench, and when he tells her the weather is boiling hot, she’s suddenly overwhelmed by intense heat, flings her clothes off and runs into the road. When he goes into the bank and informs the teller that it’s afternoon (in fact it’s about 9am), she immediately agrees with him and closes up for the day. When the raid begins in earnest with the violent crash of an armoured car, the mystery man somehow persuades two pursuing cops to shoot each other.

The clue is in the title, of course. Hypnotic is based around the concept of “hypnotic constructs”, in which mesmerising powers extend far beyond persuading punters to stop smoking or to give up cheeseburgers, and instead create entire alternative universes into which unsuspecting victims are sucked. Nothing is real, and the mind is the most dangerous weapon of all.

Why is all this happening? It turns out that there’s some involvement with a shadowy US government agency called the Division, and the stony-faced man (whose name, we learn, is Dellrayne) is determined to corner the market in high-grade mind control. Top of his to-do list is Project Domino, whose name will, in the course of the action, come to have a very particular meaning for Detective Rourke.

Meanwhile Rodriguez has loads of fun with his infinitely malleable universe. There’s a stunning scene where multiple railway tracks seem to curve skywards in a giant loop, like something out of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (in fact that might not be all Rodriguez has nicked from Nolan), while the satisfyingly compact 90-minute running time is kept permanently on the boil by a succession of twists, tricks and blindsiding reveals. Sometime it’s like a satire on the movie business itself, and how dreams can be fashioned from a few tins of paint and some rickety scaffolding.

Affleck brings an unflashy and downbeat air to his baffled, world-weary cop, and he gets fine support from Alice Braga (familiar from drug cartel drama Queen of the South) as Diana Cruz, seemingly a mere dimestore psychic but who knows far more about all this than she should. As the final reel unspools, Detective Rourke thinks he’s got it all worked out… but then Rodriguez craftily tips us the wink that maybe he has spoken too soon.

Nothing is real, and the mind is the most dangerous weapon of all

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters