From Robert Rodriguez comes a fairly new movie (April, I think) starring Ben Affleck, called Hypnotic. I haven’t been overly impressed with Affleck’s Batman portrayals in the DCMU (DC Movie Universe), mainly because for me the best serious Batman portrayal lately is still Christian Bale’s. (And to be fair to Affleck, his Batman is portrayed as a bit of an asshat. Try to kill Superman because he might turn nasty? Stoopid. But that’s only one of the problems I have with the DCMU.) After I saw The Accountant I felt much more favourable to ol’ Ben. (And besides, I like—for whatever reason—Anna Kendrick.) But I digress. Again. And again.
The Accountant made me more likely to want to watch an Affleck movie than, say, The Justice League. So I girded my loins, figuratively, and set out to watch it (Hypnotic, in case I’ve confused you with all these movie names). The movie starts out like any number of shows, with a detective (Affleck) at a psychiatrist’s office being grilled to see if he’s fit to return to duty. In the opening scene we find out that Daniel Rourke’s (Affleck’s) young daughter Minnie (Hala Finley) was abducted from a playground when he looked away for a moment, and the young man who supposedly took her claimed he had no memory of the event. Rourke is sure he is lying but days/weeks/months/years later—we’re not sure until much later in the movie how much time has elapsed—Minnie’s body is never found. In the flashback we see her playing with the dominoes seen in the film’s poster (they’re a symbol of something or other, and will be seen again and again.) Rourke is obviously fit to return to duty (without even any paperwork being filed?) because a call comes in about a bank robbery that’s about to happen.
Yes, an anonymous 911 call was recorded of a woman saying that someone was about to rob the Bank of Austin (yes, this takes place in that Texas city) and steal the contents of safety deposit box 23. In the car on the way, with his partner Nicks (JD Pardo), Rourke duly notes that in his little notebook. On arrival at the bank, the two enter an oddly generic Public Works van that’s serving as an undercover monitor station, and check out the various screens inside. For whatever reason, Rourke tells them to look at a businesswoman on a bench well outside the bank, just sitting there, and an unknown man (William Fichtner) sits beside her—the cops turn up the audio—and we hear him ask her for a lighter (not just a light), which she brings out; he tells her it’s a very hot day and walks off with the lighter. He then approaches two security guards standing next to an armoured car and says something to them (which, for some reason, doesn’t show up on the audio feed) and then heads, walking quickly, toward the bank doors. Rourke shouts something like “It’s going down!” and, drawing his gun, runs out of the van toward the bank.
Inside the bank (we’ve given up the pretense of watching the cops’ monitors) Fichtner approaches a teller and says “Good afternoon” to her; she looks up at a clock displaying a time around 9:00 and says something like, “It’s morning.” He says “No, it’s not,” and she closes her station. Meanwhile, Rourke runs into the bank, and a man approaches him; he tells the man he wants to open a box, so the man leads him down to the vault. The man reaches for the keys on his belt but says “I must have left them on my desk,” and goes out, leaving Rourke alone in the vault; Rourke takes the keys, which he’s stolen off the man’s belt, and opens box 23. (I was a little curious about that, because when I’ve opened a safe-deposit box it usually takes two keys; the owner’s and the bank’s. But whatever—it’s a movie and only needs to be internally consistent.) Inside the box is only a Polaroid of his daughter—a few years older than when we saw her last—on which is scrawled “Find Dev Dellrayne.” He puts the box back, keeping the photo.
The bank teller comes in and heads straight for box 23 and, even though Rourke points his gun at her and tells her several times to stop, she ignores him—then the two guards come in with shotguns leveled. One fires at Rourke, knocking him down. She and the guards leave; she goes to the armoured car and drives it into a couple of parked vehicles, and the armoured car launches into the air and falls on its side. Meanwhile, the blonde who’d given Dellrayne the lighter has muttered about how hot it is, taken off her top and, dressed in her trousers and bra, is prancing around in a fountain. Back in the bank, Rourke is getting up slowly and painfully, with a bunch of holes in his shirt and the flak jacket underneath.
Dellrayne (for that’s who we think Fichtner must be now) goes to the fallen vehicle and takes the box, leaving a bomb in its place. He walks away as the bomb explodes.
*****Some spoilers below******
So far, it’s a sort of normal cops/robbers-type movie—too well-lit for a noir, though there’s some good noir darkness later—with a little bit of strangeness: who is Dellrayne and how did he control the woman, the guards and the teller? Okay, to compress a bit; Nicks (the partner, remember) and Rourke find the anonymous caller, a “two-bit psychic” who’s been in trouble with the cops before, Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), and take her into protective custody, because Dellrayne has had a biker customer of hers try to kill her, then when he failed, kill himself. In the meantime, she has told Rourke how Dellrayne has done all this: there are telepaths, who can only read minds, and there are hypnotics, who can control people. When he scoffs, she says she is a hypnotic, and makes Nicks do a couple of things; she tells Rourke he has a psychic block and she can’t control him, but Dellrayne is much more powerful than she is.
From here on in—I’ll have to compress this even more because the rest of this movie can’t be described without spoiling everything—we find out everything that’s happened; the why and wherefore—and at that point I said (mentally) “Wait just a dang moment! This is some kind of takeoff of The Power, a 1968 movie!”
My friend, the late Frank M. Robinson, wrote a book that was turned (fairly faithfully, which was odd for a 1960s movie) into a George Pal (Puppetoons/stop motion and all) movie, directed by Byron Haskin, starring George “The Tan” Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. Not a bad book and movie even if they were a bit predictable toward the end.
That little clue should tell you everything you need to know about the rest of this film. Robert Rodriguez, in my opinion, isn’t a bad director/producer; he made what may be my favourite vampire movie ever—Dusk Till Dawn, but this movie, while quite watchable, requires a bit of thought, especially the after-credits scene which, in my opinion, directly contradicts several things in the body of the film. But maybe that’s just me. And although The Power is its direct ancestor (IMO), there will be echoes for those who haven’t seen that one from The Matrix and a few more genre movies.
Anyway, the various actors did very well; Affleck isn’t called on to act a lot, which is good, because acting isn’t his strong suit; Fichtner is, as always, a relentless bad guy; and Braga does her usual good job with the material she’s given. Overall, I guess I’d say this movie is fairly good and kept me interested.
If you have anything to say—for example, you liked my review, or even hated it—you can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!