Movie Review - Detour (2017)

There is a poster of Paul Newman in Harper (1966) hanging on a bedroom wall. Like that film, this movie is a noir, but it has a narrative gimmick, which is meant to explore the idea of alternate realities, the idea that people make pivotal choices, choices that can send them down one of two paths. It's an idea akin to Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." In this case, the road not taken is hiring a hitman to kill your stepfather. The other road is using the legal system to deal with your stepfather. Written and directed by Christopher Smith, this movie in the first half is all about showing us both roads at the same time where we go back-and-forth and see where both roads lead. Yet, instead of watching two divergent paths that wind up in two different places, we watch what is basically an ouroboros. Smith thinks he's showing us two sides to a person, but instead his film is a cinematic Möbius strip.

Basically, the movie is told out of sequence and for no real reason than for a meager reveal that is slightly shocking but not worth Smith's split-screen, editing trick. I would have rather that Smith did the alternate realities thing for real and not faked out the audience. I would rather the movie simply have been straightforward because the fact remains this movie doesn't need gimmicks. It has enough noir elements to stand on its own. It also has three young actors giving amazing performances that stand on their own.

Tye Sheridan (Mud and X-Men: Apocalypse) is a child actor who has grown up on screen. In this movie, he stands next to the Paul Newman poster and after watching him give a breathless performance and at times a strong, still performance, it's perhaps not a stretch to say that in 15 or 20 years that Sheridan could be at a level similar to Paul Newman at the comparable age.

Emory Cohen (Brooklyn and The Place Beyond Pines) co-stars as Johnny Ray, a hoodlum or thug who frequents strip clubs when he's not running drugs for a gangster named Frank who lives out in the desert of southern California. He's in love with a stripper named Cherry, played by Bel Powley. Cherry has two of the biggest and most expressive eyes. She helps run drugs for Frank too. Johnny becomes in debt to Frank because of Cherry. He needs a lot of money to get out of debt and is willing to do anything to do it. Cohen is brilliant as he always is at inhabiting his role and making us feel like he was pulled from a Martin Scorsese film like Goodfellas. His enchanting, green eyes are also incredible.

At first, I thought this movie would be similar to Strangers on a Train (1951). Instead, it's strangers in a strip club. Two guys randomly meet and plot to kill one of their fathers. One commits murder and the other does not, while the innocent one is practically framed. The difference is the Hitchcock film concludes with the non-murderer going free. That is not the case here, as it takes the pessimistic ending as in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors or Match Point. It's energetic and paced rather well. At the end of the day, it's a good show-piece for three amazing, up-and-coming actors.

Rated R for some strong violence, sexual content, nudity, drug use and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.


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