Starring: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson
Director: Derrick Borte
Rachel (Pistorius) is running late and having a bad day when she gets annoyed at a man (Crowe) ahead of her at an intersection. When she beeps her horn at him aggressively, he follows her and asks for an apology, but her response fills him with rage. He decides to show her what a bad day really looks like.
The trailer for this film really got me interested. I loved the grey, cold look of the film and Crowe seemed really menacing. I feel like he’s one of those actors that is often very different in each role and who chooses some interesting film. It might be more than a run of the mill thriller.
The opening (no spoilers) shows us a montage of people behaving badly and road raging, with the voice over of news reports and commentators talking about how the imbalance in America is causing frustration that’s leading to rage and violence. So, the film is clearly a bit of commentary on the state of the US. I felt like the film also referenced another film, Falling Down (1993), and the fact that the lead in that movie and the man in this one don’t have real names in the credits felt like a further connection to that film too. (Russell Crowe here is credited as Man, though in the film he is named Tom Cooper. In Falling Down, Michael Douglas is credited at the word on his car license plate. Both have violent events devolving from grid locked cars)
In this film, the Man goes after Rachel, causing violence and some carnage wherever he goes and threatening her family. I actually thought it would be more violent and bloody than it was. But it’s entertaining and very tense throughout. It’s perhaps not the most memorable film for it’s plot, but more for it’s characters. Russell Crowe plays the huge, lumbering menacing Man and his car matches his personality. A hulking dark grey truck, the colour of clouds before a violent storm, which growls and is filmed to emphasize it’s bulk. Crowe himself is hugely bulked up for this role. His face is puffy and reminded me of John Goodman in something like The Big Lebowski (1998), and I had to Google to see if he’d gained the weight or had a fat suit on (the jury is out on that one, I couldn’t find anything that confirmed either way). It’s no mistake that Rachel is the opposite. Slender, female, not assertive, disorganized, drives a rusting Volvo station wagon, not a member of a typical nuclear family.
It’s not overly laboured as a point, but you could see them as opposites on the political spectrum. He is very mad at women and their divorce lawyers who break up the family, perhaps he doesn’t really like women, and she shares a home with her brother and his girlfriend who mention smoking pot, and generally seem more modern. It’s not just a meeting of opposites that makes this interesting, it’s that neither of the leads are nice people. Rachel thinks she’s having a bad day, but she’s delaying decisions on her divorce and her lawyer is a friend helping her out for free, she’s always late, but blames it on others, and she loses her best customer but still can’t see how she created her own problems. Nothing is her fault, in her mind. (Her son, played by Gabriel Bateman, points this out to her) She doesn’t have to beep her horn aggressively, and when the Man pulls his car up alongside hers, she chooses to be rude to him. He’s menacing, but is actually pretty nice to her. He just wants an apology. Not to say that his behavior is OK, but hers really isn’t either. By being late for school, her son has to do detention, even though she made him late. She doesn’t see how she effecting others and making them pay. She’s not unsympathetic, but I really like the choice they made to make her likable but not nice, well meaning, but actually pretty self absorbed. It really adds a layer to the film.
I think this film could have had a little more action, and yet some of the action does seem to have cars flipping or exploding for no reason. But on the whole, I think it’s an entertaining watch. For me, a lot of that is down to Crowe’s performance. He’s so good in this, really dark and inexorable, and truly frightening.
See It If: a fun, not too heavy action thriller with a great bad guy. It could have more action, but you probably couldn’t get more tension and menace than this.