After joining forces in 2003’s “Gigli” and 2004’s “Jersey Girl” to, shall we say, diminishing returns, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez might never pair up on screen again.
But the power couple is back together, sort of, in two new movies, a pair of contrived action thrillers that are equal parts trashy and ridiculous — and also a fair amount of fun, if you give yourself over to them.
Affleck leads “Hypnotic,” starring as Danny Rourke, an Austin, Texas, detective who is looking for his missing daughter, who was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since. His investigation leads him into a world of all-powerful hypnotists — yes, seriously — who possess the ability to control people with their thoughts and a few well-timed key words. Think Jedi mind tricks to the umpteenth power by way of a junior high version of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” and you’re on the right path.
These so-called Hypnotics — they’re led by a figure known as Dellrayne, played by William Fichtner at his most cracked — have the ability to “actively influence the brain over a psychic bandwidth,” which is how their powers are explained in exposition.
“Hypnotic” has a doozy of a twist up its sleeve which only heightens the absurdity of everything that comes prior, which is saying a lot. And while it’s not plausible, believable or even able to fully follow its own logic strains, it does achieve a certain level of deranged camp. Put it this way: It’s never dull, and if nothing else, “Hypnotic” is a hoot.
Lopez fares better, if only slightly, in “The Mother,” a spy thriller that is also built around a child in danger. Lopez plays a character only known as the Mother — yes, seriously — an assassin and ex-military sniper who re-emerges from her self-imposed isolation to protect the daughter (Lucy Paez) she once left behind.
Lopez’ character is tough and stoic, which doesn’t play to her strengths — can someone get J. Lo more roles like “Hustlers,” please? — and director Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “McFarland, USA”) shows off the character’s maternal instincts by having her stare down a mama wolf and having them come to a sort of psychic mutual understanding. And no, the scene is not played for laughs.
But the action scenes are kinetic and explosive, including a foot chase through the streets of Havana that is clearly inspired by “Point Break,” and they help carry the film over its rocky narrative passages and its clunky visual effects. When Caro pulls the ripcord, and she pulls it often, “The Mother” comes alive.
That these two movies are being released on the same weekend seems like some sort of cosmic coincidence, or an in-joke by the movie gods. But they make for an enjoyable double feature — not necessarily good, but definitely a good time.
MPA rating: R (for violence)
Running time: 1:32
How to watch: In theaters
MPA rating: R (for violence, some language and brief drug use)
Running time: 1:55
How to watch: Netflix