Review: DETOUR, Christopher Smith's Mind and Time-Bending Neo Noir
Harper (Tye Sheridan) is obsessed with the idea that his stepfather was responsible for car crash that left his mother hospitalized and comatose. Drowning his sorrows in whiskey and taking a cue from his college Law classes he wonders aloud if he can get back at the man and get away with it. However, he attracts the wrong type of attention. Hard as nails Johnny (Emory Cohen) and his stripper companion, Cherry (Bel Powley) show up at the front door the following morning. Now the trio are headed off to Vegas, concocting a plan that will either let Harper get back at his stepdad and get off scot-free, or bring everyone down with him.
Smith said in an interview Detour is meant to be a modern day interpretation of Strangers on a Train. Smith also gives a visual nod to the 1945 noir film by the same name, Detour, though having not seen that film we cannot comment further to the connection. To go into a lot of detail about the plot of Detour would ruin any effect that it will have on its audience. Much like Christopher Smith’s seldom talked about Triangle, the writer/director has written another mind bender of a thriller. The less you know heading into Detour we hope the more satisfying your viewing experience will be.
We will tell you this much. Once Johnny and Cherry show up on Harper’s doorstep Smith splits the narrative and the story goes off in two directions before reconnecting during the final act. The more astute viewer will pick up visual cues as each timeline unspools, but there is certainly enough to keep everyone guessing as to which outcome Harper will find himself in by films end.
Another key strength to Smith’s thriller is his young cast. Tye Sheridan fills the role of the somewhat naive Harper well. Visually he is a cross between James Dean and a young Crispen Glover. There is a very soft and innocent sex appeal to the young man. Counter to Harper’s softness are the jagged edges of Powley’s Cherry. Though Cherry has little to do with the story other than act as secret motivations for both Harper and Johnny Powley does ‘rode hard and put away wet’ very well. Arguably, these are the two characters that you should be rooting for throughout the story but there is little there for either of them to do and draw you to their side.
The real driving force of Detour though is Emory Cohen as Johnny. Holy cats is he hard in this film. Har-rrrd. A force of nature, his aggression pushes Harper to commit to the road trip to Vegas. I have not seen a singular character have such an impact on the rest of the characters in a story like this by sheer willpower alone in a while. I was watching Ben Kingsley in Glazer’s Sexy Beast all over again. It is his performance that makes Detour feel more violent than it really is, verbally punching his way through the story. Cohen’s performance is reason alone to seek out this film.
Detour’s narrative has a time structure that unfolds and gives a thrill that I have not enjoyed as much since Twyker’s Run Lola Run. The film’s young cast convey a youthful maturity that reminisces of Johnson’s Brick; young people acting like adults in a grown up’s world. Smith winds a crafty little neo-noir thriller around his young cast of rising stars and tells a story that weaves back and forth to settle down for a satisfying end.
Magnet Releasing will release Detour in theaters, OnDemand, on Amazon Video and iTunes January 20, 2017