dir-scr Christopher Smith
prd Julie Baines, Phil Hunt, Stephen Kelliher, Jason Newmark, Compton Ross
with Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley, Stephen Moyer, John Lynch, Jared Abrahamson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Reine Swart, Joe Vaz, Nic Rasenti, Dylan Edy, Daniel Fox
release US 20.Jan.17, UK 26.May.17
16/South Africa 1h37
One more twist: Sheridan and Powley

cohen moyer lynch
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Detour An inventive sense of storytelling turns this offbeat movie in on itself, shifting between violent thriller and deeply personal drama. It's an unusually involving film that keeps the audience on its toes with a variety of tricky revelations, but writer-director Smith also anchors everything in the characters themselves. And they are beautifully played by a strong young cast.

Los Angeles law student Harper (Sheridan) thinks his stepfather Vincent (Moyer) is responsible for the car crash that left his mother in a coma. And now Vincent is planning a tryst with a waitress in Vegas. So when he meets hotheaded thug Johnny (Cohen), Harper hatches a plan to travel to Nevada and catch Vincent in the act. But Johnny brings his stripper friend Cherry (Powley) along, and she changes the dynamic of the trip. Meanwhile, Harper is also imagining how he might handle things himself without Johnny and Cherry distracting him.

The narrative cuts back and forth between these two Sliding Doors-style realities, as each echoes the other until a strikingly inventive convergence. Yes, this is a film that deeply surprises us, both in the storytelling itself and in the actions of characters we think we understand. The result is darkly enveloping, a gripping little adventure with provocative undercurrents. Where it goes is unpredictable, and most intriguing is that the film is never as random or pointless as it seems.

Sheridan anchors the film with yet another richly textured performance as a young man making a series of momentous decisions. It's such a finely detailed turn that Harper remains thoroughly sympathetic even when he does something shocking. And his interaction with Johnny and Cherry is bracingly out-of-the-blue. Cohen has the flashier role as the charming alpha dog who's actually in a lot of trouble, while Powley bides her time as a quiet sidekick until her role blossoms later on.

Smith packs the film with colourful side characters, including Lynch as a powerful gangster with a nasty connection to Johnny and Cherry, Abrahamson as Johnny's dopey university friend and Akinnagbe as an aggressive cop. And the settings are cleverly brought to vivid life through inventive camerawork and editing (it was shot mainly in South Africa). In the end, the film may feel a little thin and gimmicky, but it's worth a look for the fine acting and creative structure. And also the provocative exploration of how important it is to think about the ramifications of your next move.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 25.Apr.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall