Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Gino Anthony Pesi stars as a taxi driver named Harris who is going to pick up someone outside of Los Angeles. He gives that person a ride. He does this again and again. This film has Harris spending the entire time behind the wheel of his taxi cab. Literally, this film is an actor’s vehicle. It’s also seemingly the first leading role in a feature film for Pesi, who has been burning up the small screen over the past decade. He’s been particularly hot in OWN’s Ambitions and NBC’s Shades of Blue. Perhaps, it’s because he’s first presented here in black-and-white, but Pesi seems almost cut from the same cloth as classic Hollywood actors or heartthrobs from yesteryear, such as Marlon Brando or Paul Newman. He’s got that same kind of aura or presence and this film thankfully is the perfect showcase for him. Given the fact that the entire film is literally of him driving, there is a limit to what we get, but what we do get is a lot of Pesi’s face, so the film is very reliant on his performance. If one isn’t taken by him, if Pesi isn’t able to grab you, then the film might not work. Yet, that isn’t a concern. With a look, a smile, his voice, you will happily pay the fare to take a ride with him.
The only thing in question here is the story. Pesi’s charm is certainly worth the price of admission and he carries the film wonderfully, but it might be daunting for some to consider that the film is again resigned solely to taking place inside of his character’s taxi. It’s not even like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) or Thelma & Louise (1991) where the titular character does occasionally get out of the car and does other things. It’s not even like The Fast and the Furious (2001) or The Transporter (2002) where there’s action like chase scenes, shootouts and various other stunts. If one’s hoping for something like Vanishing Point (1971), Smokey and the Bandit (1977) or Mad Max (1979), you can count those out as well.
Brinna Kelly (The Midnight Man) co-stars as Penny, the woman whom is the first passenger of Harris’ taxi cab. She soon becomes his only passenger, as the movie focuses on Harris giving her a ride in his cab over and over. The majority of the narrative is Penny talking to Harris. The two get to know each other, as both are stuck in this taxi. While this might sound like a setup akin to Smokey and the Bandit or Thelma & Louise, it’s more insular, restricted and ostensibly claustrophobic. Those aforementioned films were still, even in small ways, about engaging with the outside world. The scope here is a bit more narrow. It’s really just about these two people getting to know each other.
The male character is a bit more straight-forward. Getting to know him is fairly easy, aided by Pesi’s performance, which at times is like an open book. The female character is a bit more enigmatic. Given that director D.C. Hamilton has this movie mainly in black-and-white, we are perhaps meant to feel a film noir vibe. In that, Penny could come across as a femme fatale. Kelly’s performance though is less femme fatale. She’s more genuine. She has a charm too that matches Pesi and provides for a decent and believable amount of chemistry between the pair.
The way it goes suggests a romance between the two. Comparisons also come from films like Vehicle 19 (2013) or Locke (2014), which are about men trapped in cars. The latter of which is about a man trapped in a car having to deal with a romantic entanglement. I would dismiss those comparisons. Because the topic of being trapped on a deserted island arises in the dialogue, I would instead make reference to something like The Blue Lagoon (1980). Obviously, that film was about two people trapped on a tropical isle. Harris and Penny aren’t as young as the two people in The Blue Lagoon. It’s not about them discovering themselves as they look forward. This story is more about people reckoning with who they were and what they’ve done as they look backward.
There are allusions in this movie that suggest more than just a star-crossed romance of two people trapped in a car. Don’t be mistaken. There is a star-crossed romance here, one that might remind older viewers of something like Same Time, Next Year (1978) or not much older viewers of Brokeback Mountain (2005), not in the sense that there’s anything queer at play but due to lovers only having a limited window to be together. The allusions though are to science-fiction and supernatural elements. As a result, you can’t help but guess as to what the allusions could be pointing. Some might think those allusions are pointing toward Groundhog Day (1993). Others might think the allusions are pointing to The Twilight Zone (1959). Others might think they’re pointing to The Good Place (2016).
Regardless, the movie is intriguing. It’s mysterious. It’s romantic. It’s darkly humorous. One will be entertained in its simplicity.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 22 mins.
Available on VOD and Blu-ray on November 19.