Five months into 2023, actor Ben Affleck has made no shortage of news, from filming a Dunkin’ Super Bowl commercial in Medford, to appearing beyond bored at the Grammys in March, to releasing the highly acclaimed “Air,” in April, which he directed and starred in alongside fellow Bostonian Matt Damon.
But this week, another project of Affleck’s hits theaters with virtually no warning. “Hypnotic” premieres in theaters Friday, and it stars Affleck as a detective trying to find his missing daughter, and a string of bank robberies that might be connected. The film was directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids,” “Desperado”) and it boasted a $65 million budget. Affleck stars alongside Alice Braga (”The Suicide Squad”) and William Fichtner (”Armageddon”).
Bank robberies. Ben Affleck. This film arguably has the basic ingredients of a blockbuster. So why is it creeping into theaters on cat feet?
Rodriguez wrote “Hypnotic” in 2002, and filmed it almost two decades later in 2021, according to a recent Gizmodo interview with the director. The movie was supposed to begin shooting in Austin in 2020, but was delayed a year due to the pandemic.
“Made back in 2021, it’s been gathering dust ever since,” one critic wrote in The Guardian.
Reviews so far, although sparse (none in this newspaper, which wasn’t offered a critics’ screening, or in the New York Times, or the Washington Post), haven’t been enthusiastic. The LA Times described the script, co-written by Affleck and Max Borenstein, as “complete mumbo-jumbo.” The Hollywood Reporter called the movie’s look “unexceptional, with a bland gloss barely distinguishable from the average made-for-streaming feature.”
It’s been a rocky road for “Hypnotic.” The picture was set to be produced and distributed through Solstice Studios, but while filming in Austin in October 2021, the studio imploded. The film didn’t find another distributor until March 2023, just two months before it premiered.
(The distributor, Ketchup Entertainment, is a small production company without any major titles to its name.)
“The best thing for a movie is to have a solid release date, a great marketing plan, and consistency of message in terms of making audiences aware of the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a movie theater analyst at Comscore.
(The film also had an “work-in-progress” screening at March’s SXSW, which critics have called “unusual.”)
Dergarabedian noted that movie theaters typically release lower-to-mid-budget films around this time of year — the second week of May — on the heels of the bigger pre-summer blockbusters like Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“The smaller films aren’t even trying to compete, so I suspect the same thing here,” Dergarabedian said.
At $65 million, Dergarabedian called the “Hypnotic” budget sizable, and said it might contribute to why the film got a theatrical release versus a streaming one: “Anything over $50 million, the idea is to get the movie in theaters, rather than being lost in the massive streaming ecosystem.”
Meanwhile, Affleck’s wife Jennifer Lopez is starring in a Netflix-only film “The Mother,” also premiering Friday. The pair appeared at a red carpet and premiere event for the movie this earlier week.
“Some movies get a big premiere, some don’t,” Dergarabedian said. “Part of it is money. The other part is the clout of stars, and how good a movie is expected to be.”
Affleck’s career has seen its peaks and valleys. Great movie or not, he is everywhere, and he doesn’t seem to care if we notice or not.
Brittany Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.