How often do our minds deceive us into forgetting the most terrible aspects of our past, like the protagonist of Hypnotic, the latest movie from the outstanding director Robert Rodriguez, does in 2023?
Indeed, the protagonist is the inconsolable detective Daniel Rourke, a cop with ordinance trauma after the kidnapping of his daughter three years earlier.
Sessions with the psychologist don’t help him much, so he dives into the job, trying to arrest the elusive Dellrayne, a bizarre robber who successfully robbed one bank after another without leaving a trace.
Also, in a safe deposit box at one of the crime scenes, Rourke finds a photo of his daughter, starting to suspect that the criminal also had something to do with her kidnapping.
It is difficult to find clues or witnesses to this man, who seems to have many accomplices who spontaneously help him as soon as he whispers a few words in their ears.
To see this through, Rourke seeks help from fortune teller/psychologist Diana Cruz, but just as they first meet, a stranger breaks into the shop and tries to kill her.
After escaping, Diana confesses she was once part of a secret government program, simply called the Division, a special force with the most potent hypnotists on the entire planet.
From then on, Dellrayne will relentlessly hunt them down while Rourke tries to figure out why this criminal is so obsessed with him and his daughter and what they may have to do with a mysterious secret weapon called Domino.
Easy, straightforward entertainment
I want to start by saying that Hypnotic is not a perfect thriller/sci-fi in any way, yet I found it more than entertaining enough to recommend it as one of the most amusing movies of 2023.
Besides his solid action directing style, Robert Rodriguez also writes a suitable screenplay that cleverly exploits the hooks of hypnosis and memory in the most spectacular fashion possible, opening the scene on a world where these hypnotists are nothing less than X-Men above ordinary human beings.
Despite being a low-budget production, the staging is of an excellent standard, as are the numerous chases and shoot-outs with a constant brisk pace that never bores, without wasting unnecessary time on over-explanations or heavy psychological insights to fill in the inevitable script holes.
I found some of the criticisms I read silly, especially those complaining about a confusing plot; otherwise, it was effortless to follow after a beginning made up of (deliberately) misleading moments and then arriving at the revelation that puts all the pieces on the chessboard in place.
As usual, what I most admire in Rodriguez’s cinema is being direct and hitting the target, not lacking in quotations from the classic conflicts of the mind and soul in Alfred Hitchcock‘s movies such as Vertigo or the mental illusions/constructions of Christopher Nolan‘s famous Inception.
So, as far as I’m concerned, non-stupid entertainment like this is always welcome; indeed, I would have loved it even more if the Texas director had indulged in even more crazy action scenes as in his more famous From Dusk Till Dawn or Desperado.
Good and bad guys in a hypnotic long ride
Suppose I have to find a flaw in this movie; in that case, the main character, Ben Affleck, did not seem quite passionate about this character.
Although many have criticized him for a long time, I have always liked him as an actor, for example, in very different movies like Dogma or Good Will Hunting, and even more, I appreciate him as a director of wonderful little gems like The Town or Live by Night.
However, an excellent supporting cast rescues his performance, among which stands out the gorgeous Alice Braga.
The actress has long been accustomed to action roles, such as with the entertaining and spectacular (and also much criticized) 2010 Predators, where she was the heroine alongside the unusually muscular Adrien Brody.
The excellent Alice is a woman who, like a few, combines beauty and kindness with a solid and tenacious personality especially playing this character, we will see changes in personality several times throughout the story.
Of course, as I always say (sorry if I sometimes repeat myself), every adventure worthy of the name needs a convincing and uncompromising bad guy.
This time, fulfilling the task is William Fichtner, an actor of great charisma whom I remember with pleasure from the series Prison Break or the splendid action western The Lone Ranger, where he once again played the villain on duty.
He will be the one to give the Braga/Affleck pair a hard time throughout the story, in a challenge of the mind where the one who can best fool his opponent with cheats and illusions will win.
Finally, let’s also mention the small part for Jeff Fahey, by now an unfailing actor in almost every Robert Rodriguez movie, always ready to help shotgun the hero of the day, as he did, for example, also in the magnificent Alita: Battle Angel, another underrated sci-fi adventure by the director.