EXCLUSIVE: Fresh off a surprise ‘work in progress’ screening at SXSW, Robert Rodriguez’s action-thriller Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck, has been set for a May 12 U.S. release.
As we revealed last month, Ketchup Entertainment will be launching the movie on more than 2,000 screens.
The looming release for a movie that remains unfinished is yet another talking point in the project’s tumultuous journey to screen.
Little has been straight-forward for Hypnotic but the warm reception it received on Sunday night was a welcome respite for its creatives and financiers. It’s unusual for a big budget film to get a public ‘work in progress’ screening at a festival but Austin was a smart choice given the home crowd’s reverence for Texas-native Rodriguez.
The director said today: “I’ve been working on this film for many years now, and to see the reaction from my home town audience at SXSW was humbling and validating. I look forward to now sharing it with all movie lovers who want to experience a crazy fun ride full of unexpected twists and turns.”
The $70M feature, which El Mariachi and Sin City director Rodriguez has been wanting to make for two decades, was delayed by the pandemic, shut down three different times and involved in an insurance lawsuit. Its main financier and U.S. distributor Solstice imploded during production and the movie spent two years in post-production without a domestic buyer. In an upcoming interview with Deadline, Rodriguez admits the film faced “otherworldly” challenges and said “pages were changed daily to get it done.” He also confirms that scenes will be added to the movie.
Finding a domestic theatrical home for Hypnotic was complicated by a hefty screen commitment, an eight-figure pay-TV pre-sale to Peacock and by material that isn’t straightforward.
In the movie, Affleck stars as a detective who finds himself spiralling down a rabbit hole while investigating a series of reality-bending crimes mysteriously connected to his missing daughter. Aided by a gifted psychic, he is pursued by a lethal specter who he believes holds the key to finding his daughter. But more rabbit holes await. One trade in SXSW called the film “ingenious”, but our critic said it was “all over the place”.
The film’s international buyers, who played a key role in getting the movie financed, have been sweating over their investment and a number are keen to renegotiate their contracts. Those buyers — who were concerned by the version of the film they saw at the EFM in Berlin last month (we understand Rodriguez has been in listening mode and made changes after) — are now anxious about the short lead time before the film’s domestic release and the lack of studio distribution.
Meanwhile, a collection of former Solstice execs have been drafted in stateside to try to do the film and its release campaign justice. They will have been cheered by the audience response at SXSW and at least one positive trade review.
Those marketing executives were hamstrung in terms of timing by a stacked summer release schedule and wanted to avoid the August “dumping ground” as it’s sometimes called. There was no easy solution given the challenges on deck but they’re confident that US audiences without preconceived notions about the project will spark to the Nolan-esque material in similar fashion to the SXSW crowd.
The team shepherding it over the line are also hopeful that its star Affleck will take part in promotion. We understand Affleck is keen to support the project but he’ll presumably also be doing the rounds for Nike movie Air and DC’s The Flash, which are being released in April and June, respectively.
“It was great to see the reaction to the movie at SXSW, and we are excited to fast-track the film’s completion to bring it to theaters across the U.S. on May 12th”, said Ketchup Entertainment CEO Gareth West, who was an executive producer and financier on the movie before stepping in to the distribution breach.
West added: “We are honored to be working with visionary filmmaker Robert Rodriguez who has brought his signature style to Hypnotic, and delivered a must-see film for audiences who crave edge-of-your-seat excitement.”
Supporting cast includes Alice Braga, JD Pardo, Hala Finley, Dayo Okeniyi, Jeff Fahey, Jackie Earle Haley and William Fichtner.
Producers are Mark Gill, Guy Botham, Lisa Ellzey, Jeff Robinov p.g.a, John Graham, Racer Max and Robert Rodriguez p.g.a. The fleet of exec producers include James Portolese, Joshua Throne, Maitreya Yasuda, Crystal Bourbeau, Vincent Bruzzese, Beth Bruckner O’Brien, Peter Touche, Christelle Conan, Gareth West, Chris Milburn, Artur Galstian, Vahan Yepremyan, Walter Josten, Patrick Josten and Jordan Wagner. Co-executive producers are Ryan Basford, Court Coursey and Caylee Cowan. Ingenious is among financiers.