• 20 Mar - 26 Mar, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Lead player Thomas Nicholas dials it up to 11 – and, occasionally, 12 – with his intense portrayal of Ethan, a young man who starts out trying to keep his temper in check after a fuzzily defined brush with the law necessitates his periodic reporting to a no-BS social worker (Phillips). Ethan works the late-night shift for an Uber-esque LA company to provide for himself and Mia (Kelly Arjen), his rebellious 16-year-old sister, who’s been in his care since the death of their mother (Miller) Despite his best efforts as her guardian, however, he worries, with ample justification, that Mia is spending too much time, and doing too many drugs, with her boyfriend (Jake T. Austin) and other bad influences.

Working from his own script, a patchwork of contrivances and coincidences, director Metcalf kicks off the first-act set-up by having Ethan pick up a significant passenger: Kaden (Rourke), a philosophical crime boss whose failing health has not yet diminished his control of drug-dealing and loansharking enterprises. It would be overstating the case to say a close friendship immediately blooms. But they part on cordial terms – and that casual connection comes in handy when, a few scenes later, Mia endures grievous bodily harm.

Ethan winds up hired as an on-call driver for Kaden’s underlings, an occupation that allows him easy access to the express lane of the vengeance trail. Yes, you guessed it: Mia and her boyfriend were overdue on their payments to one of Kaden’s sleazier associates, who in turn was late in his payments to Kaden, and all of them paid dearly for their tardiness. Ethan works his way up the chain of command – sometimes patiently, sometimes furiously – with just enough speed to keep things interesting, and just enough stealth so that it takes a while for Kaden to realise his workforce is being decimated.

The very best thing in the entire movie is Rourke’s surprisingly affecting and consistently riveting portrayal of Kaden as a melancholy monster who is at once painfully self-aware and unapologetically amoral.

Phillips, Astin (as Ethan’s overbearing rideshare company boss) and Miller acquit themselves respectably in thinly written roles, as does Kate Katzman as Ethan’s attractive next-door neighbour. But the real attention-grabber among the supporting players is Luke Edwards as Kyle, a murderous stuttering simpleton who realises much too late that, no, Ethan really isn’t his new best friend.