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SXSW Review: Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic

Ben Affleck in Hypnotic
Photo Credit: SXSW

Before the pop-up screening for Robert Rodriguez‘s upcoming film Hypnotic premiered at SXSW, he told the audience to refrain from spoilers before the movie is officially printed.

So I’ll refrain from little more than a general reaction.

What I can tell you is is that his latest film Hypnotic feels like an early 2000s thriller both aesthetically and thematically. Aside from a little more chiseled Ben Affleck, you could easily find this on a fan favorite shelf at Blockbuster.

And that makes sense. 

Rodriguez said this has been in his head for almost two decades, conceiving it during Spy Kids 2 production (a movie I unabashedly love for the record.) Had this come out relatively soon after initial conception, it might seem more novel, particularly if it was released before Inception. But even so, Scanners also exists. But that certainly won’t garner as many modern comparisons.

It might be unfair to compare with Nolan’s mind tricks, but they seem to be cut from the same cloth considering their mind control shenanigans and focus on lost children. 

To Rodriguez’s credit, there is enough of a difference in their ultimate goal and he turns in some fresh ideas to separate any further comparison. Still, the movie treads familiar waters far too long before reveals upon reveals subvert the original idea of a detective that’s sent on a mysterious case while being released back on duty following the trauma of losing his daughter.

Similarly, Rodriguez is able to inject some visual liveliness once the stakes ramp up. For all of the shenanigans Marvel has pulled with distorted universes in recent years, somehow Rodriguez’s crew pulls off something new and enjoyable. 

Affleck does some great work to save any of the skepticism I have about the movie as a whole, though. He does enough to keep everything afloat for the finale to justify the whole setup.

I have a feeling there’s not much that will be changed, though, from this working print. There could be some trimmed scenes but structurally it’s surely wrapped.

I’m not so sure it’ll sit among the ranks of the Hitchcock thrillers Rodriguez says that it was inspired by, but at the end of the day, it’s an enjoyable throwback despite some of my reservations.

Also, stick around for an end credits scene that could be setting up a sequel.

Hypnotic hits theaters nationwide on May 12.


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