Hypnotic–Great, classic sci-fi storytelling from writer-director Robert Rodriguez

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a solid Robert Rodriguez movie, possibly his best.  It’s a collision of ideas from Philip K. Dick, John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock, M. Night Shyamalan, and Stephen King.  It’s a gigantic mix of thriller and classic sci-fi tropes, with a style that could only come from the director of From Dusk Til Dawn.  A strong story written like a classic science fiction pulp story from Rodriguez, it’s the new Ben Affleck movie, Hypnotic, now streaming on Peacock.  The story is so good, with twists and turns and a secret you can figure out if you’re paying attention, it may be the year’s best sci-fi entry.

Paycheck.  Inception.  Stranger Things.  The movies and tropes it pulls from are so smartly mixed that you won’t know what lies ahead–what the ultimate result is going to look like.

Total Recall.  They Live.  Fallen.  Ben Affleck plays Danny Rourke, a cop whose daughter has been missing for four years, abducted on a playground right in front of him.  Or was she?  Was she really abducted?  Does he really have a daughter?  In the quick pace of the film, Rourke is called in when a tip suggests a bank is being held up–one of a string involving the theft of safe deposit boxes.  William Fichtner plays the man who makes his way into the bank, straight through the police, only to seemingly disappear as the people close to Rourke stop acting like themselves.  In another movie you might see Rodriguez tapping Nicolas Cage for the lead role, like Next or Knowing.  Affleck plays the role well, although he seems stuck with that gravelly Batman voice.

North by Northwest.  The Happening.  Firestarter.  One scene involving Rourke hiding among trains shows Rodriguez’s skill at the thriller genre, using color and angles and timing Hitchcock might have used to tell this story.  It has the dark mood and noir of Memento and Assault on Precinct 13, the surrealism and use of imagery of Inception and The Adjustment Bureau.  Alice Braga plays Diana Cruz, a hypnotist Rourke runs into who may hold some helpful information, including characters played by Jackie Earle Haley and Dayo Okeniyi.  So who nabbed Rourke’s daughter, and how does Jeff Fahey’s character figure into the mix?

Bloodshot.  Logan.  The Manchurian Candidate.  It’s none of these movies, and also, all of them.  This feels like an adaptation of an old Ray Bradbury or Arthur C. Clarke short story.  The production values are lacking in a few places, but that’s more than made up for in Rodriguez’s clever use of his film staging.  This is Robert Rodriguez’s best storytelling, and best delivery on the big screen.  Catch it now on the small screen.  Hypnotic is now streaming on Peacock.

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