Ben Affleck's new movie Hypnotic is destined to be a cult classic

ben affleck, hypnotic
Hypnotic is destined to be a cult classicWarner Bros.

Every now and then a movie comes along that defies a conventional rating system. We're not talking about a movie that's so good it's hard to talk about, but more one that is objectively bad yet also entertaining at the same time.

Say hello to Hypnotic, the latest movie that appears to be destined for cult status, best enjoyed with an audience in on the joke.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez (who also co-wrote with Max Borenstein), the movie was filmed in late 2021 and is now getting somewhat of a surprise release. It only screened as a 'work in progress' in March 2023 at SXSW, before its release date was confirmed for only two months later.

It's possible you might not have even heard of Hypnotic until now, even though it stars Ben Affleck in the lead role. But perhaps that's for the best, because if there's any movie you should go into blindly to enhance the experience, Hypnotic is the perfect fit to just let its wildness wash over you.

ben affleck, hypnotic
Hypnotic Film Holdings LLC

In that spirit, we'll give just an overview of Hypnotic which, on the surface, sounds like your classic detective thriller. Affleck plays detective Danny Rourke, who we meet in a therapy session to determine whether he's fit for duty following the unsolved abduction of his daughter.

No sooner has he decided to return to work – it's the only thing keeping him sane, naturally – than he's pulled into investigating the latest in a series of reality-bending bank robberies. What's more, the latest robbery features a clue that could lead to unravelling what happened to his daughter.

It's a setup about as generic as you could get for a detective movie, but you sense that's the point. Once Rourke starts his investigation, which leads him to team up with psychic Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), Hypnotic gets more and more unhinged with a twisty plot that appears to make up its own rules as it goes along.

The result is not a good movie as such, but one that moves at such a rapid pace that you'll be too busy trying to keep up to actually be bored. And in making sure that you never have the time to think about it, the movie is really playing the ultimate psychic trick on the audience.

ben affleck, alice braga, hypnotic
Hypnotic Film Holdings LLC

Perhaps even Ben Affleck is in on it. Aiming (presumably) for world-weary and traumatised by past actions, Affleck's performance ends up being lifeless and at odds with the trashy joys elsewhere. The movie's biggest reveal could give a logical reason for this, but the performance doesn't improve after the twist either.

A much better fit for the material proves to be William Fichtner, because if you want an enigmatic, powerful villain, you opt for Fichtner. As the shady individual supposedly behind the robberies, he elevates the movie with his usual charismatic turn and makes some elements work much better than they really should.

There are sequences in Hypnotic that are genuinely good, rather than in the so-bad-it's-good camp of the rest of the movie. By the time the big twist comes, you'll have probably guessed it, but the sequence that follows is well-executed, blending what you thought you saw with what actually happened.

Visually, the movie makes the most of its reality-bending premise too, although you can see the heavy influence of the likes of Inception and Doctor Strange. Like the constantly-moving plot, it's ultimately all a distraction to stop you thinking too much, but it does the trick all the same.

william fichtner, hypnotic
Hypnotic Film Holdings LLC

If you were told Hypnotic was still a work in progress you could absolutely believe it. The in-world logic changes from scene to scene to fit the latest twist, while it also often feels like information is kept from you (or just not included/thought of) to make something more surprising.

It sure is entertaining though to watch a movie cling to the rails so much and never quite falling off into unwatchable territory, but also never being fully able to pull all of its parts together to fully work. You'll be hooked purely just to see what idea it'll throw at the wall next and if this one will land more effectively.

As such, a rating is probably irrelevant as with the right audience, Hypnotic is probably at least a four-star experience. At the same time, if you wanted to be critical about it (which we have to be), you wouldn't be lacking for reasons why it's actually a bad movie – and no amount of psychic trickery can hide those flaws.

Hypnotic is released in US cinemas on May 12 and in UK cinemas on May 26.

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