Hypnotic review: The new Ben Affleck movie has a daft concept and an unconvincing ending but at least it's short
Also reviewed this week: Sisu and 406 Days
Talk about a long gestation. Written by Robert Rodriguez in 2002, made two years ago and not released till now for various reasons, Hypnotic has all the hallmarks of an overcooked disaster.
Hypnotic (15A, 94mins)
Oddly enough though, it isn’t quite that.
Ben Affleck, the Hamlet of movie stars, who goes about his business accompanied by a small black cloud and always gives the impression his good fortune is a curse, is well cast as Danny Rourke, a Texan police detective who’s obsessed with the unsolved disappearance of his seven-year-old daughter.
A culprit was arrested, but the little girl’s body was never found, which leaves Danny wondering if, against all odds, she might be out there somewhere, waiting to be found.
In downtown Austin, meanwhile, an anonymous tip has been received about a possible bank heist.
In the middle of a session with his shrink, Danny rushes to the scene with his partner Nick (JD Pardo) just in time to watch a bizarre scene unfold.
A middle-aged man (William Fichtner) walks slowly towards the building, pausing to chat briefly to two armed security guards, who suddenly agree to become his accomplices.
It’s 9.30am, but once inside the bank, he convinces a teller that it’s late afternoon: she closes her till and becomes his getaway driver.
And when Danny intervenes and chases the man on to the roof, two cops, who’ve also been won over to his cause, turn their guns on each other and shoot.
Danny is baffled, even more so when he reaches the deposit box the criminal had been after and finds a photo of his missing daughter inside, with the words ‘Find Lev Dellrayne’ scrawled underneath it.
Danny becomes convinced the mystery bank raider is Dellrayne and that he may know where his daughter is.
The source of that anonymous tip, meanwhile, turns out to be one Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a cut-rate fortune-teller who clearly knows more than she’s letting on.
Reluctantly, she tells Danny about the Hypnotics, an elite group of hypnotists trained by a secret government division, and whose powers are so strong, they can invade people’s minds to distort reality and make them do their bidding.
Dellrayne is the most powerful of them, a ruthless and power-mad monomaniac. And when Diana and Danny join forces to try and stop him, they soon realise the magnitude of their task.
All very high-falutin’ then, and keener viewers will detect the fingerprints of everyone from sci-fi master Philip K. Dick to the mind-bending confections of Christopher Nolan.
A sequence during which the road rises before Danny and melds into the sky looks like Inception on a shoestring, but the Nolan film Hypnotic most resembles in tone is Memento, the 2000 mystery starring Guy Pearce as a concussed cop who finds it impossible to distinguish illusion from reality.
We’re not long into Hypnotic before we start to ask if that bank job was really happening and if Danny ever really had a daughter at all. And how come he, and he alone, seems so hard to hypnotise?
All is revealed, after a fashion, by a story full of twists and thoroughly in love with its own hokum.
I mentioned at the start that the screenplay was written in the early 2000s, and there’s a definite bang of that era off Rodriquez’s movie, which is relatively low on special effects and high on clumsily manufactured tension.
There’s a certain charm though in this old-fashioned style of cinematic storytelling and the idea that a total stranger can persuade you to jump off a high building is rather compelling.
I’m not sure I was entirely convinced by the ending, nor the shoddy manner of its execution, but for most of Hypnotic, I bought into the daft concept and passed a relatively pleasant 90 minutes (that running time also refreshing).
And Ben Affleck, in his own inimitable and almost reluctant fashion, is a charismatic enough actor to provide a tent pole around which all this airy nonsense can be hung.
Hypnotic is released Irish cinemas on Friday 26 May
Rating: Three stars
Sisu (16, 91mins)
A western with Nazis, a B-movie without pretensions, Jalmari Helander’s gruesome Finnish caper Sisu is set in the autumn of 1944, as the Germans were preparing to evacuate their forces to Norway.
By a remote river high in Lapland, a grizzled prospector called Aatami Korpi (Jorma Tommila) is searching for gold.
He finds it in great quantities, packs bags of the stuff on to his horse and begins the long journey south to civilisation.
Before long, however, he encounters a ragged SS unit led by Bruno Helldorf (Aksel Hennie), who decides to take his gold and kill him.
But he gets away and as the Germans try to hunt him down, it becomes apparent this is no ordinary prospector: Korpi is in fact a legendary Finnish commando with over 300 Russian dead to his credit.
In Sisu, the only good Nazi is a dead Nazi. This rather myopically nationalistic film glories in Korpi’s mass kills and miraculous escapes, which become ever more absurd, but Helander’s outrageous action romp is never afraid to laugh at itself.
Rating: Three stars
406 Days (PG, 90mins)
In April 2020, thousands of Irish Debenhams workers received perfunctory emails informing them their services would no longer be required.
Shops closed under cover of the lockdown would never reopen and staff members would not receive the redundancy packages they had been promised.
Instead of meekly accepting their fate, a group of workers took decisive action and mounted a protest that would last 406 days.
Joe Lee’s gritty documentary reveals the stories of the women involved, many of whom are still traumatised by that email. “Your name wasn’t even on it,” one says.
“It was just a generic email and it was very harsh, I think, to treat people like that. But I didn’t think they would walk away and not pay us our 2+2.”
The ‘2+2’ refers to a redundancy agreement reached with management in 2016, and when protesters found out that would not be honoured, they picketed shops to prevent trucks from taking stock away.
Their brave effort may have a lasting impact as a new bill aimed at protecting workers during liquidation is currently being considered.
Rating: Three stars