If any director can be accused of a split personality it’s Robert Rodriguez. The US director made a name for himself with films like 1995’s Desperado, 1996’s From Dusk ‘till Dawn and 2005’s Sin City, all of which, it’s safe to say, are aimed at an adult audience.
At the same time however, he’s been behind the kiddie friendly Spy Kids franchise, with the fifth entry Spy Kids: Armageddon due this year.
His latest film however, may be the first personality that none of us either expected or wanted to see, in what is a truly appalling piece of filmmaking.
Sitting through a mandatory psych evaluation is Detective Danny Rourke (Ben Affleck). He’s been ordered to do it after his young daughter was abducted from a playground, where he was supposedly keeping an eye on her, to now not being seen since.
It’s obviously an event that’s going to play on your mind, but Rourke wants to get back to work, as it’s the perfect distraction.
They get a tip-off that a bank is going to be robbed, so he joins the unit involved in monitoring the situation. It’s by no means your average bank robbery, particularly when only one thing had been taken from the previous robberies, one deposit box, and nothing else.
It’s not long before Rourke realises that these were no ordinary bank robbers at play here, in fact it was all the construct of one man, Dellrayne (William Fichtner), who managed to get himself inside the bank vaults using some powerful mind control techniques.
When Rourke does a little research, he discovers that this goes far beyond one man, and that there is a group known as The Division, who can train these individuals known as hypnotics, who can control the minds of all those they come in contact with.
And after a little more digging, he finds that his missing daughter is somehow a part of this mind-bending puzzle too, as he has to open his own mind to a whole new world of possibilities.
On a surface level, you can kind of get an impression of what Rodriguez was after here; it’s as if he wanted to step into the shoes – and mind – of Christopher Nolan, to produce the kind of brain-melting film he’s become synonymous with. And if that wasn’t a challenge enough, he sprinkles in a little essence of The Matrix in for good measure.
It’s a lofty ambition, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise that he made such a mess of it; there’s missing the mark and then there’s this big, stinking pile of doo doo.
Considering how creative some of his previous scripts have been, it’s shocking to see how not only how he got this one so wrong, but how it even made it to the screen. He’s not entirely to blame, as he co-wrote it with Max Borenstein, who did such a good job with the mini-series The Terror.
This joint effort is woeful beyond comprehension, so much so that if someone told you it was an early effort by wonky AI to write an entire script, you could believe it. Let’s be clear, it makes absolutely no sense. Whatsoever. And to make matters worse, you kind of get the impression that it really thinks it’s doing the business.
It also, alarmingly, had nearly 30 producers attached to it; to think with all those eyes on what was unfolding, not one had the guts to pipe up and enquire if anyone else had no idea what was going on in front of them.
It’s a painful watch, on so many levels, especially to see someone like Affleck involved, who knows his way around a script having won an Oscar for doing so; his involvement can only be part of a sinister move by Rodriguez, who must have had one or more member of the Affleck family hostage to force him to take part in this tripe.
To add insult to injury, Rodriguez also commits some outrageous nepotism, with having his son in charge of the music, which was yet another big mistake as it’s hideous throughout, lacking any kind of subtlety it what can best be described as a horrid, generic noise.
To be fair, a film featuring characters with the special ability to control minds would be great – and it was for anyone that may have seen a small space flick called Star Wars - but Rodriguez has taken the Jedi mind trick and really submerged it in the dark side, turning it into incomprehensible drivel.
Rodriguez has produced a tedious, poorly written and ill conceived film, which we can only hope is a small blip in his fairly rated career to date.
Let’s just hope that audiences can suffer from the same fate that occurs to many of the characters involved on screen, and wipe it from our memories ASAP.