Scenic Route: This Movie Weekend's Underdog

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies
Friday, August 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm

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There are a whole lot of conversations going on about how this is one of the best weekends for movie openings all year, with movies like The World's End, The Grand Master, Ain't Them Bodies Saints and You're Next all competing for screen space. But one I don't see in any online chatter - and it's a shame, because it's good - is Scenic Route, which opens in limited release today.

I know, you're probably thinking the guy from Bayformers and the guy from Balls of Fury aren't worth the effort. I'm pretty sure they know you think that, too, which is why they agreed to do this movie that rests entirely on the strength of their acting. Most of the movie is, simply, Josh Duhamel, Dan Fogler, a pick-up truck and the desert.

It opens with a shock - a bloody, mohawked Duhamel seemingly beating Fogler to death - then backs up to the two of them looking normal, talking like best friends on a long cross-country drive. Of course the truck breaks down, and help arrives sooner than you'd think - but then Fogler's character Carter waves the Good Samaritan away, explaining that they aren't really broken down: he sabotaged his own truck so the two old pals could catch up. Needless to say this does not endear him any further to Duhamel's Mitchell, especially when the fake sabotage proves to have been more effective than was planned.

Cracks appear in the relationship almost immediately, with Mitchell representing the side of supposed maturity, and Carter the freewheeling life. The movie never stacks the deck - you could choose to side with Mitchell, who gave up his dreams to have a family, even if his marriage has caused him to abandon all that he used to be. Or you could admire Carter for sticking to his guns as a writer, even as he sleeps in his truck every night. But as dehydration starts to kick in, and the guys drink windshield cleaner fluid out of desperation, sanity breaks down and humanity gives way to pure rage.

The opening scene re-occurs about halfway through the film - thankfully, it doesn't kill the momentum, and what could have been a filmed play moves into some new areas. Perhaps even more effectively than The World's End - but in a less escapist fashion - this is a parable of responsibilities and foibles filtered through genre (horror, in this case).

Also unlike that movie, the ending is fantastic and makes the whole film better. Check it out if this is your thing.

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