HE WENT THAT WAY Review: Charmingly Weird

Jacob Elordi, Zachary Quinto, and Patrick J. Adams star in director Jeff Darling's thriller.

Contributing Writer
HE WENT THAT WAY Review: Charmingly Weird

Jim makes his way through the badlands along Route 66. He is the handler of celebrity chimpanzee Spanky. whose stardom has been gradually receding recently.

Jim (Zachary Quinto) is also in the blues of sorts, as he melancholically endures his wife’s shrewd lectures during their phone calls, and lives on hope that his and Spanky’s luck might still change,  even though he currently doesn’t even have enough money to fix his car.

He’s wrong about pretty much everything but one thing – there are indeed some surprises in store for him and Spanky on that road. At the same time, Bobby (Jacob Elordi) is psychopathically killing his way through the road until Jim buys his sob story about an estranged girlfriend in Chicago and agrees to give him a ride, with consequences that take them both aback. 

He Went That Way, for all the chimps, murders and its bleak sense of humor, is an inherently bittersweet film. Part of it comes from real-life circumstances: director Jeffrey Darling, for whom it became his feature debut, tragically died before being able to work on the postproduction.

The film itself, loosely based on an actual story that happened in the 60s and the true-crime book Luke Karamazov by Conrad Hilberry, emanates a sort of a melancholic feel. The world depicted here is beautifully shot (Darling himself used to be a cinematographer among other things) but is depicted as a sad and hostile place that generally lacks any kind of human warmth or tenderness. It is also full of delightfully bizarre moments, like a wonderful scene where a man takes one look at Zachary Quinto and immediately insists he needs to buy some knives. 

Jacob Elordi, who is currently having a pretty solid season, obviously has a meatier role here. His weakest moments as Bobby come in brief flashbacks where he's busy talking to dead bodies and doing random psychopathic things, since those moments lack any motivation or grounding.

Where Elordi excels is at showing Bobby as a not-at-all romantized figure; one moment, he poses on the roof of a van like Martin Sheen’s Kit Carruthers, the next, he is throwing a fit like a petulant child upon failing to light a smoke. Then, there’s the great Zachary Quinto, who really is the highlight of the film.

His Jim is obviously more subdued, which makes Quinto's casting devilishly ironic, considering all the charismatic sociopaths he has played in he past. Really, it’s hard to suppress a knowing chuckle every time someone refers to him as weak or lacking in some way (which happens a lot), but Quinto manages to subvert any expectations one might have about his character.

Ironically, He Went That Way is a kind of movie critics always keep asking for (and then mostly hate upon receiving) as it operates almost entirely on subtext, and very little on actual text. The elephant in the room – or a chimpanzee if you please – is the undeniable attraction between Bobby and Jim, which remains a rhyme that’s strongly implied but never fully articulated.

It might come across as disappointing, but it’s definitely a choice. It is true that He Went That Way is a hard film to honestly fall in love with, as it is too weird for some tastes and not weird enough for others.

Is there a potential for a great film in there somewhere? There definitely is. Could it have been different if the director was able to finilize the cut? We’ll never know. But as it is, the movie still does a good job of subverting all kinds of expectations, including ones about its genre: it’s not entirely a thriller, neither is it a straight-faced drama or a black comedy, and all the while it chooses to basically say: why not?

The film opens today (Friday, January 5) in select theaters and will be available January 12 On Demand. 

He Went That Way

  • Jeffrey Darling
  • Evan M. Wiener
  • Jacob Elordi
  • Patrick J. Adams
  • Zachary Quinto
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Jacob ElordiJeff DarlingPatrick J. AdamsZachary QuintoJeffrey DarlingEvan M. WienerCrimeDramaThriller

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