Hypnotic (Robert Rodriguez, 2023) is yet another film that concerns itself with the above-normal psychic abilities of humans. The film makes use of elements of psychic science and the position of memory in it to narrate the story of Rourke, a police detective who has recently lost his daughter.
A recent case of a bank heist that Rourke takes charge of hints at the fact that his daughter’s disappearance is at the heart of all that he sees and comes across. This article attempts to explain some probable questions that might arise in the course of watching Rourke’s life unfold before us and the ending– so a little *spoiler alert* before proceeding!
Hypnotic (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
A suddenly awakened eye fixing itself to an attention position upon hearing someone call out to him by his name, “Rourke,” throbbing ticking sounds of a clock, someone tapping a pen in tandem with the rhythms of the clock, and finally, Rourke gaining himself back from his momentary drift and coming back to the room where he is seated—this is how Hypnotic opens. Given the commonplaceness of these tropes, all these images and the accompanying mise-en-scene take no time to build the impression that this is a therapist’s office and Rourke (Ben Affleck) is the one who has come for therapy.
Upon probing to reveal the location where he drifted, Rourke narrates the incident with his daughter. We get to know that Rourke’s daughter was kidnapped and also come to know about the probable suspect, according to Rourke. Soon it is given out that Rourke is an Austin Police Department Detective in search of his missing daughter. However, his therapy session is cut short by his call of duty—an anonymous tip giving away an impending armed robbery at a bank in Austin.
At the site, Rourke and his team begin to keep a close watch over the vicinity of the bank, that is, until Rourke’s eyes meet the figure of a strange man. This strange man is strange in more ways than one —firstly, it is because he arouses a déjà-vu in Rourke and, secondly, because he seems to be able to abet people to act out of sorts with seemingly innocuous greetings and simple eye contact.
Upon sneaking into the locker room of the bank and breaking open the locker for which the tip came, Rourke finds out that this robbery, which he dismissed initially as a prank, is no run-of-the-mill bank robbery and demands more seriousness than ever before— for this robbery and its mastermind perhaps have some connection to his daughter. In the locker, he finds a Polaroid of his missing daughter with a taut instruction that reads, “Find Lev Dellrayne”.
Soon the identity of the anonymous phone call is revealed, and the traces point toward one Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a psychic reader. What is also revealed–well, at least momentarily– is this identity of the strange man that seems to be always lurking behind Rourke; he is indeed the mysterious Dellrayne. It is through Diana Cruz that Rourke becomes aware of the larger world of hypnotics, the quasi-governmental body called The Division, which discovered the hypnotic abilities of the human, its interests in exploiting this untapped ability, and the position of Dellrayne in this world.
She informs him that Dellrayne is perhaps the most powerful hypnotic, a ‘legend’, who compels people to believe in the psychic construct he creates for them. She also adds that while she herself is a hypnotic, she has never been able to get inside Rourke throughout the course of their interactions. She attributes it to a psychic block in Rourke.
However, she also warns that what she cannot accomplish, Dellrayne can easily. What ensues is a state of constant near-death escapes— escapes from Dellrayne only to find more about Dellrayne and his motives behind his berserk search for Project Domino. And, all the places Dellrayne leads them indicate that Dellrayne’s sinister motives might solely revolve around Rourke’s daughter (who is so far referred to as Minnie).
Why is Rourke different?
It does not take us long to find out why Rourke is different after Diana pronounces it. During one of their escapes, when Dellrayne has, in fact, created all conditions that might lead to their death, Rourke suddenly finds the impossible psychic abilities to turn the table against Dellrayne. When a stunned Rourke is baffled at his own powers and at the prospect of them showing up at a time like this, Diana insists, or rather stresses, that perhaps there is something that he cannot remember regarding his abilities. I would use the word ‘stresses’ because it is through moments like this that the larger warped world, of which Diana, too, is a part, is revealed.
These are simply attempts of Diana, who is actually not Diana but Vivian, to trigger Rourke’s memory to retrieve it. We now know that Rourke is different because he himself is part of this world of hypnotics and was affiliated with The Division. In an attempt to protect his daughter, he obliterated his own memory. Diana is actually his wife, of whom he has no memory.
Everything – from the bank heist to their travel to Mexico to seek the help of Jeremiah, Diana’s alleged supervisor– is actually The Division creating constructs in Rourke’s mind to find a gap from which Minnie’s information might slip in. To create fake scenarios, The Division has made a fake setup of all the places that we purportedly see Rourke visiting along with Diana. This act of stressing and reminding can also be noticed when Jeremiah informs the duo about the way Dellrayne has wiped his own memory and left behind triggers that would later help him to recall the whereabouts of Domino when the time comes.
These stories are all made up—it is The Division’s attempt to create a trigger for Rourke, who has hidden away his daughter in the same manner. The Division does so because it believes that a reiteration of the manner in which Rourke has hidden his daughter might help trigger Rourke’s memory, and upon finding a resemblance, his memory would flood back. The psychic block of Rourke, to which Diana refers, is nothing but the void created by the absence of memory.
Who is Lev Dellrayne, and what is his Project Domino?
Earlier in the film, when Diana refers to “Dellrayne” as a legend, the meaning is twofold. While by ‘legend’ it might mean that this “Dellrayne” is an undefeated champion amongst the hypnotics, the most powerful of them all, it also carries the connotation of being a myth, something which might not exist in real life. This is so because we later find “Lev Dellrayne” to be nobody and nothing but an anagram of ‘Deer Valley Lane’, the place where Rourke has hidden his daughter. It was a secret coded note that he had kept for himself to find his daughter in the aftermath of wiped memory.
In River’s den, Rourke suffers a partial memory gain. That is the image of the woman who we have known until now as Rourke’s wife, who seems to merge with Diana in Rourke’s mind. This is actually the instance of Rourke regaining some of his memory as Diana is, in fact, his wife. In order to find out more, he hacks into the database himself, where he finds that Diana Cruz goes by the alias Vivian. That is when we see Rourke typing out the name Dominique, a name not hitherto mentioned in the film. The database yields the results that Dominique is, in fact, Minnie, who is given the alias, a truncated form, “Domino,” by The Division.
Who has kidnapped Minnie?
Minnie was “kidnapped” by Rourke himself. Rourke hid her away in some undisclosed location and wiped his memory so that there was no trail left behind for The Division to find her out. Minnie, being the child of Rourke and Vivian, is the most powerful of all hypnotics, even more, powerful than the mysterious villain who is referred to as “Dellrayne”. Knowing fully well that The Division will exploit her powers to further their own agenda, Rourke and Vivian take the oath to safeguard their daughter.
Hypnotic (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
Is Diana a part of The Division’s plans?
Yes and No. Diana Cruz, the dime-store psychic, is part of the construct; that is, she actually does not exist. Diana has been Rourke’s wife, Vivian, all along, and it is Vivian who has been part of the larger plan of The Division to compel Rourke to recall his memory. Later, however, we find out that Vivian, too, had obliterated her memory like Rourke to protect their daughter.
So, her act of holding Rourke hostage along with other agents of The Division to gain back Minnie alias Domino is actually the consequence of what The Division fed into her clean slate of mind. Even this momentary hijack of Vivian by The Division is actually beneficial to Rourke and Minnie as Vivian worked as bait to get all those involved with The Division to drift toward Minnie where she could have the final showdown.
It all ends in a final showdown between the family of three and The Division agents headed by the villain who we have hitherto known as “Dellrayne.” Upon reaching the ranch owned by Rourke’s foster parents at the end of Deer Valley Ln, The Division, and Vivian have to confront the parents of Rourke. Diana (or Vivian) gets a little baffled when she hears the old man and woman talk to her like a family member and say they love her like her own and have missed her. She proclaims that she does not know them.
However, the awkwardness of the situation reveals that something might be off with Diana too. When the agents gun the parents down, Vivian is visibly concerned. She pleads with the dying mother to help her find Minnie, as Rourke is the one lying and hiding the truth. That is when Rourke emerges from the house and reveals that Vivian’s words are not her own but those of The Division’s.
Through this act, Rourke simply follows the earlier suit of Vivian and adopts it to now help Vivian get back her memory. At last, Minnie reunites with Vivian and tells her that she is proud of her. Vivian is perplexed by her daughter’s words. It is then revealed that the ranch is actually a psychic construct by Minnie. The unnamed villain cannot negotiate with this betrayal on Vivian’s part, and we see the agents indulging in a bloodbath among themselves, something that Minnie has compelled them to do through her psychic abilities. At last, Minnie retrieves the memory of Vivian and brings her true memory back.
The father and the daughter explain that Minnie was born with superhuman abilities, which was the center of attention of The Division. The Division wanted to have Minnie all for themselves, which was not supported by Rourke and Vivian. Given the indefensible power of The Division, it was also difficult for them to surpass it. So they kept making the plan to destroy it completely.
The only way they could do it was by waiting till the time Minnie had fully realized her power and honed them. They believed when she comes of age, she would set the ball rolling, “tip the first domino,” and that would bring The Division here in search of her. So while ‘Domino’ stands for Minnie for The Division, their project, for her parents, ‘Domino’ becomes the means by which their daughter would embody the action that would activate an entire chain of actions that would ultimately facilitate the downfall of The Division.
It is also revealed that it was the decision of Rourke and Vivian to wipe away their own memories, lest the agents get inside their minds and find Minnie’s whereabouts by examining their memories. Rourke had a strong conviction that since they formed the most precious memories of each other, retrieving the memory when the time comes will not be beyond question. His conviction was such that if it is the memory that turns them away from each other, it would be the memory again that will lead to the resolution and the reconciliation. At last, we see Rourke, Diana, and Minnie finally leave behind the obligations to The Division and choose a life for themselves.
What does the Mid-credits scene in Hypnotic (2023) mean?
In the mid-credits scene, we see the family of three leaving in a chopper with the foster mother of Rourke, who has sheltered Minnie all these years. However, we also see Rourke’s foster father staying back at the site of the fight. After the chopper is gone, Rourke’s father walks over to the villain’s body, who we thought to be dead.
That is when the film shows that the villain had shapeshifted himself to become Rourke’s father, hinting at a further warped state in which the entire story is suspended and even leading us to question how much of what we saw is the final truth.