The wide-angle shot also helps viewers distinguish between “reality” as Rourke knows it and the “dash”-style delirium that distorts his (and our) perspective, usually shot with a spherical camera lens. If you look closely at “Hypnotic,” beyond the obvious twists and embarrassing dialogue, you might catch glimpses of a deeper story, even if you’re a fan of the multihyphenate filmmaker. robert rodriguez.
Rodriguez (“Alita: Angel of War,””Four Bedrooms”) directed, scripted, and edited “Hypnotic” in Austin, Texas, after three production breaks and an insurance case. Austin was neither Rodriguez nor his first choice of production location (Los Angeles), nor was it their second (Toronto). Still, it’s hard to imagine how Rodriguez could shoot “Hypnotic” anywhere but Austin, especially since he’s filmed most of his projects in Austin in his 30 years as a filmmaker. Moreover, if “Hypnotic” is more about ambiance than story, it seems to present a crisis of imagination: what happened to the strange and energetic Austin in Rodriguez’s memory? Does it really exist?
I don’t mean to oversell the personal qualities that usually hover around the periphery of Rourke’s search for answers, but “Hypnotic” tries to ease viewers into a mental proposition, basically. by overstating the facts of Rourke’s investigation. He is with Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a “dime store psychic” (his words) who ferries Rourke to the shady corners of Austin. Rodriguez fans may recognize some key locations, such as the Bone Shack barbecue spot from “Planet Terror,” where trucks and Texas Rangers refuel with breakfast tacos. Some locations in Austin are only familiar because of the character actors hiding inside, such as Jeff Fahey and Jackie Earle Haley. There is also an Alex Jones-type paranoia (Dayo Okeniyi) is hiding in a lavishly decorated bunker. He can see well, but still wears an eyepatch that he moves from eye to eye to avoid being detected by security cameras, because of their facial recognition technology, right?
The prefab weirdness of this secret Austin, the city Rourke never thought to investigate, inevitably proves to be as big as the canned movie and the now endless remix. of genre tics and tropes that Christopher Nolan previously claimed by signature movies such as “Memento,” “Start,” and “Tenet.” “Hypnotic” isn’t as polished or as thoughtful as Nolan’s trendsetters. It’s also often distractingly stiff with overblown visual compositions and robotic dialogue. A game cast, led by the thanklessly handsome Affleck, doesn’t add much value to this bald caper.