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Hypnotic movie review: Ben Affleck and co fail to mesmerise

Hypnotic movie review: Ben Affleck and co fail to mesmerise

Ben Affleck has just directed, and starred in, a critical hit (Air). He’s about to appear in one of the buzziest blockbusters of the year (The Flash). Yet here’s an awkward reminder that as a leading man he leaves something to be desired. In Hypnotic, a would-be high-concept thriller, he’s mesmerisingly dull.

He plays Austin cop Danny Rourke, whose daughter was snatched while they were together at a playground. In the months that followed, his marriage fell apart. Look into Affleck’s eyes. We’re meant to believe Danny is in unfathomable pain. From first to last, though, he wears the aggrieved expression of a man who’s just watched his Lamborghini Urus get pranged.

Everything may not be as it seems – which may inform some of the acting choices – but you need to feel empathy for a character to follow them into a labyrinth, otherwise who cares when they get lost?

Danny and his partner Nicks (J. D. Pardo) get a seemingly random tip-off from Diana (Alice Braga), a woman who claims to be a psychic, about a bank robbery. At the scene of the crime, Danny spots someone he recognises (the supremely versatile, fetchingly elfin William Fichtner, wasted here as an icy weasel).

Ben Affleck with Alice Braga in Hypnotic
Ben Affleck with Alice Braga in Hypnotic

But then Danny is framed for murder and he and Diana have to go on the run. The action moves to Mexico, and as the fugitives are chased through a spartan landscape where shapes often shift, viewers will be the ones experiencing deja-vu. Hypnotic is a momentum-free hodge-podge of The Matrix, Memento, Inception, X-Men, Vanilla Sky and, of course, every Philip K Dick-indebted sci-fi narrative in which “reality” belongs in quote marks.

Prolific, legendary director/co-writer Robert Rodriguez wrote the script back in 2002. Maybe, if he’d shot it then, the big reveal Danny uncovers would feel less tired.

As it is, even with the short running time, there are plenty of opportunities to notice the lack of spark between Affleck and Braga, the grating bombast of the soundtrack and the paltry special effects (compare what Roderiguez does with his $65m budget to the marvels conjured up by Jordan Peele, for roughly the same money, on Nope).

The ending hints there’s room being left for a sequel. Luckily, Hypnotic bombed in the US, so at least we don’t have to worry about that. Actors are meant to be expert manipulators, but Affleck and co utterly fail to sell this nonsense.

In cinemas from May 26

93mins cert 15