A low-rent noir thriller with some questionable acting, Detour nevertheless keeps the twists coming.
The film focuses on Harper (Tye Sheridan – X-Men: Apocalypse), a tense, privileged young law student. The young man suspects his stepdad, Vincent (Stephen Moyer) caused a car accident, leaving Harper’s mother in a coma. Harper is livid that Vincent has barely visited his mother and believes he’s having an affair with a Vegas showgirl.
During a night on the tiles, Harper makes the acquaintance of shady redneck Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen – Brooklyn). Before you know it, Harper is telling Johnny he wouldn’t mind Vincent being taught a lesson. Even the money needed for such an assignment is discussed. The next day Johnny turns up on his doorstep. And despite Harper’s protestations that their “agreement” was just the whiskey talking, Johnny won’t take no for an answer. Next thing you know, Harper and Johnny are hotfooting it to Vegas to “do the deed”. his badly treated “girl” and partner-in-crime Cherry (Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and .
Christopher Smith (Triangle) directed Detour from his own original screenplay. His inspiration dated back to 2007 during a trip to LA. Disturbia had just been released and he enjoyed its “Hitchcockian” nature. He also loved Strangers on a Train. Smith came up with the idea of employing a split narrative; where one side of the story is the protagonist choosing to kill and the other one is choosing not to.
This is hardly your conventional road trip. The seeds for the ending are sown in the opening scene. Rhe film’s forced style and wooden acting didn’t impress me early on. The storyline though – with its shocks and surprises – gradually worked its way into my psyche. Before the closing credits, it took a much firmer grip.
Just when we think we know what is going down, the screenplay switches gears and presents another angle. It is a useful and effective technique.
I would have liked to have seen Harper drawn as a more sympathetic character. Sheridan’s is a subdued performance, notwithstanding Harper’s “on-edge” nature. His complete antithesis is Emory Cohen as the bad boy Johnny. This is quite the contrast to his demure demeanour as Saoirse Ronan’s paramour in Brooklyn. Johnny Ray may not be likeable, but Cohen makes his memorable.
Rated MA, Detour is a piece of gritty filmmaking that keeps you guessing. It scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Christopher Smith
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Bel Powley, Emory Cohen, Stephen Moyer
Release Date: 22 June 2017
Rating: MA 15+
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television