Robert Rodriguez’s Twisty Thriller Hypnotic Will Leave You Nauseous

The sort of DTV filler that invariably goes straight to Redbox and stars Frank Grillo or Chad Michael Murray, usually produced by Grindstone or Emmett-Furla, with a headline cameo from Bruce Willis, Robert DeNiro or John Malkovich. This story of hypnotic super-villains is actually a $60 million production starring Ben Affleck and directed by Robert Rodriguez in his Troublemaker Studios playground in Austin.

Originally written by Rodriguez in 2002, but since rewritten by his son Racer, Hypnotic was a troubled production. Original distributors Solstice (a pandemic-era upstart launched and capsized by Russell Crowe’s Covid-era shocker Unhinged) shut down, leaving it with the Z-level Ketchup Entertainment (no, me neither), a company who in the world of modern (nominally) theatrical distributors of Z-level junk, are lower than even Vertical Entertainment or RLJE. If it had fallen any lower, this’d be a ‘TUBI Original’. You know something like this, even with Affleck as star is bad, when the likes of Lionsgate and Saban did not see it fit to release.

Oh, this is terrible. If you didn’t know this cost $60 million, you’d think it was a low-budget shot in Bulgaria joint, leading Affleck to a career slumming it a la Seagal or Willis in the worst kind of cheapo straight-to-stream drivel. But no, this was shot in Austin, not Bucharest or Sofia. But if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was. The drably shot visuals, the cheap CSO mockup of a local TV news bulletin, the cheap sets (a clinic called ‘Division of Occupational Therapy’ and a brief trip to a backlot Mexico), to think that this is by the same guy who made El Mariachi on $7,225, is astonishing. 

So, Affleck is Austin cop Daniel Rourke, who is back on the job after his daughter went missing after an abduction (hence flashbacks to news footage). He and his tough-guy Latino partner Nicks (J.D. Pardo, unrecognisable as the femboy starlet of The Gwen Araujo Story) get a tip about a pending back robbery, where dear old William Fichtner, increasingly resembling a matter-transport fusion of Christopher Walken and Barry Manilow, is lording it about. There’s some mumpsy about a deposit box with a photo of Rourke’s daughter and a note, ‘Find Lev Dellrayne’. Rourke discovers that the mastermind behind the tip was a dime store psychic named Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), who admits that she’s a Hypnotic.


What’s a Hypnotic? Well, they are a bunch of near-mutant Scanners-level super-psychics developed by an ultra-secret government agency called the Division, who are basically the Shop from Stephen King’s novels. “Telepaths just read the mind. Hypnotics reshape their reality”. Braga is a Basil Exposition, telling us how hypnotics create a world that does not exist, and can morph people’s faces to disguise them. Fichtner is the ultimate Hypnotic, ‘Dellrayne’, using his powers to manipulate bank robberies a la Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure.

And if you are wondering if the daughter is some Firestarter-esque super-psychic prodigy? Yeah. But along the way, there are more twists than a green and white ice cream lolly, veering from sub-Shyamalan rammel to Shakin’ Christopher Nolan to pilfering the kind of post-Matrix visual trickery that correctly dates this Hypnotic‘s script to the early 2000s. There’s even a homage to a memorable kill from Final Destination. But it’s done with no style. 

Fichtner tries, and there’s appearances from Jeff Fahey and Jackie Earle Haley, who have been doing their best to make crap like this watchable for decades. Haley (a scene-stealing presence since childhood) is a Basil Exposition senior psychic, while Fahey shoots a gun for three minutes. And if you think that’s bad, there’s a Marvel-style franchise cliffhanger. Yeah, right.  In short, if it weren’t an Affleck picture, this pile of shite would not be getting a cinema release. Avoid. 

Hypnotic is in cinemas now

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