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Dustin Putman

Detour  (2017)
2½ Stars
Directed by Christopher Smith.
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley, Stephen Moyer, John Lynch, Jared Abrahamson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Reine Swart.
2017 – 97 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for some strong violence, sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language throughout).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, April 24, 2017.
Drowning his sorrows at a local bar while facing the very real possibility his comatose mother may never wake up, law student Harper (Tye Sheridan) has a rocky run-in with tough-talking stranger Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen). In his drunken fog, he broaches the desire to do away with his uncaring, presumably philandering stepfather (Stephen Moyer), under the influence and fully responsible for the car accident that injured his mom. In the light of the next day, Johnny Ray comes calling with his exotic dancer girlfriend Cherry (Bel Powley) in tow, demanding Harper accompany them on a road trip to Vegas to follow through on the hit of his business-tripping stepfather. In this moment, Harper has two distinct choices—to go with Johnny Ray and Cherry, or to retreat into his home—each with inevitable life-changing consequences.

Craftily written and directed by Christopher Smith (2011's "Black Death"), "Detour" is a scrupulously constructed neo-noir road movie focused on two divergent paths Harper's life could potentially take. This "Sliding Door" scenario has plenty more tricks up its sleeve as the narrative evolves, most of them successful until the final act pulls one too many rabbits out of its hat. This closing revelation leaves a bitter aftertaste when it frankly wasn't necessary, but what comes before this misstep is tautly designed and sometimes enticingly unpredictable.

The trio of leads—Tye Sheridan (2016's "X-Men: Apocalypse"), as in-over-his-head college kid Harper; Emory Cohen (2013's "The Place Beyond the Pines"), as the troubled, invasive Johnny Ray, and Bel Powley (2015's "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"), radiant and soulful as the weary, underestimated Cherry—are without fault as their characters' precarious journey to Sin City places them in danger's way time and again. Each decision they make, all of them stemming from Harper's grief and resentment, could define their very fates. If "Detour" appears a touch too familiar for its own good at times—the creative influences of Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen, and John Dahl are unmistakable—director Christopher Smith puts enough of his own stamp on the material to give the story a fresh, devious urgency.
© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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