The Horror Honeys: 'Detour' - A Love-Letter to American Noir

'Detour' - A Love-Letter to American Noir

All photos courtesy of Magnet Releasing
A New Release Review with Horror TV Honey Kat Wells

Detour (2017)

Tye Sheridan is really something in Detour, a neo-noir thriller with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, but not quite enough character development to keep you caring about anyone except for Tye Sheridan.

Written and directed by Christopher Smith (Severance, Triangle), Detour stars Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Harper, a law student who is tortured by the fact that his mother is in a coma, and tormented by the idea that his asshole stepfather is responsible for the car accident that put her there. On the eve of a call from the doctors that he knows could mean they’ll have to pull the plug on mom, Harper, drunk and reckless, stumbles upon a hitman in a bar and makes a deal to have his stepfather taken out. The next morning, intent on making that hit and collecting $20,000 fee, Johnny Ray (yes, that is actually the hitman’s name, and he’s played by Emory Cohen (Brooklyn, The Place Beyond the Pines), who does a great job with a character who is wildly unsympathetic) shows up at Harper’s place with Cherry, his girl/stripper/prostitute to organize the hit. Harper no longer wants to go through with it, but Johnny Ray insists, and a wild trip to Vegas to take out the stepdad ensues.

Emory Cohen in Detour
Not only does nothing go as planned, but things as we think we know them aren’t exactly as they seem. Smith pulls some fun split-screen business that feels at first like Sliding Doors, with the audience wondering which path was chosen, but which ultimately turns out to be much more complicated than that. The reveals that follow bring some joy to the experience of watching a film that is otherwise pretty joyless. It should be noted, there were more than a handful of moments in the screening when much of the audience laughed out loud at moments that were certainly meant to be (at least darkly) funny; I, however, had a hard time getting there. But more on that in a bit. Nonetheless, Smith’s method of storytelling made me want to go back and watch it through again, if only for the actors’ performances.

Tye Sheridan, in Detour
And speaking of performances. Tye Sheridan was a powerhouse in Mud (at the age of 16!) and he’s a powerhouse here. His hyperventilating, earnest, bewildered Harper oozes pain and purpose (even if his purpose is muddy and not completely developed). Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) is broody, beautiful, and grounded as Cherry, Johnny Ray’s girl, though she isn’t given much to do. Come to think of it, every single female character in this film is either a prostitute, a waitress, a bank teller, or in a coma.

Bel Powley in Detour
Ultimately, Detour ends up being a wild romp, even if it isn’t a particularly fun one. Maybe it’s the intense sympathy you feel for a smart kid with his whole life ahead of him that drains the fun out of the moments where it’s offered. You just hate to see him get into the pickles he gets into (and by pickles, I mean serious felonious activity). But look, I’m not totally unreachable; Even I can appreciate a line like, “she was screaming like Fred Krueger had a finger up her ass.” That’s just objectively funny. Also, given all of the twists and turns in the film, there was one shocker that even had me honk-laughing out loud in disbelief.

The cast of Detour
Detour isn’t perfectly cohesive, but it’s ambitious, beautifully shot, and clever, and the cast is solid. At the screening I attended, director Chris Smith said this is by far his favorite of the films he’s made, and a love letter to America and the noir films he grew up loving. I think it shows in the film, and I think it’s worth a watch.

DETOUR will be in theaters, OnDemand,
on Amazon Video and iTunes January 20, 2017

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