The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HE WENT THAT WAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - HE WENT THAT WAY

New Release Review - HE WENT THAT WAY
A serial killer hitches a ride with an animal trainer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeff Darling

Starring: Zachary Quinto, Jacob Elordi, Patrick J. Adams

He Went That Way poster

In 1964, animal trainer Dave Pitts was driving across America with precious cargo - his performing chimp Spanky - when he picked up a young hitch-hiker named Larry Lee Ranes. Unbeknownst to Pitts, Ranes was a serial killer who had murdered two gas station attendants and another motorist in the previous couple of weeks. For three days, Pitts was terrorised by his passenger but fortunately escaped with his life.

Working from the book 'Luke Karamazov' by author Conrad Hilberry, director Jeffrey Darling (who sadly passed away mere weeks after completing production on his directorial debut) and screenwriter Evan M. Wiener have heavily fictionalised this encounter. He Went That Way opens with a disclaimer stating "This really (mostly) happened," but the dynamic between the two men is rendered in such a puzzling fashion that it's impossible to take any of it at face value.

He Went That Way review

The names have been changed with Pitts now becoming Jim Goodwin and Ranes now Bobby Falls, which is odd as the real life Pitts is interviewed over the closing credits. Jim is played by Zachary Quinto with a thick Minnesotan accent as though he's auditioning for a role in the next season of Fargo. The role of Bobby is occupied by current hunk du jour Jacob Elordi.

From the off, it doesn't make sense that these two men would cross paths. We're told that Jim is short on cash and could use a co-driver, but the hitch-hiking Bobby screams dangerous delinquent. Pitts claims he picked up Ranes because he was well-dressed and even thought he might be a travelling Mormon missionary. Clad in denim jacket, white t-shirt and drainpipe jeans, the fictional Bobby is a poster child for trouble, the sort of greaser who combs his hair with a flick-knife. The initial encounter is shot in a manner that hints at Jim feeling a sexual attraction for the handsome young hoodlum, but this is never expanded on.

He Went That Way review

If you can suspend disbelief enough for Bobby to get in the passenger seat, you'll be tested by much of what follows. Bobby immediately begins acting like a creep, but Jim never seems all that perturbed. When they pull into a motel for the night, Bobby pulls a pistol on Jim and takes his wallet and wedding ring before sticking up the clerk. Unbelievably Jim stays the night in the motel and doesn't seem particularly bothered.

The character of Jim is a mess. He's given several opportunities to get away from Bobby but never does so, and we're never given a plausible explanation for why he sticks around. As he did with his Elvis in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla, Elordi plays Bobby like a Frankenstein's monster, a sometimes sympathetic freak who seems to suffer from defective wiring. The presence of Spanky appears to have a calming influence on Bobby, who even breaks into a charming smile when the beast disarms him emotionally. But it's simply not enough to make us believe that Jim would adopt feelings that are either paternal or perverted towards this scary young man. Jim doesn't just put his own life at risk, with the threat that Spanky might fall victim to Bobby's rage permeating throughout. At one point Jim even endangers a pair of teenage girls by introducing them to Bobby, leaving us to wonder what on earth he was thinking in doing so.

He Went That Way review

The 1964 setting is rarely believable and mostly rendered through costumes and cars. It doesn't help that the soundtrack exclusively features songs from the psychedelic second half of the '60s. The decision to employ a performer in a costume (Phoenix Notary) rather than an actual chimp proves an avoidable distraction. Quinto struggles to find the heart of his baffling character and plays it somewhere between Steve Martin and Ben Stiller. Though lumbered with a one-dimensional troubled thug stereotype, Elordi is quite magnetic and genuinely intimidating.

He Went That Way occasionally hints at a more interesting film, one that uses the relationship between its protagonists to examine the cultural shifts occurring in America in the mid-60s. Struggling to find gigs for Spanky, Jim represents a type of entertainment that was in its death throes while Bobby embodies an uncertain and unpredictable future. The movie never settles on this idea however and too often gets lost by taking narrative shortcuts that ultimately leave it lost in a desert of its own indecisiveness.

He Went That Way
 is on UK/ROI VOD from April 29th.

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