Director Christopher Smith tends to make really interesting and unpredictable films. First off he gave us Creep, a horror flick involving surprising things hidden in London’s Underground tunnels. This was followed by Severance, in which colleagues on a team building weekend are inventively dismantled, and then the brilliant Triangle where Melissa George gets caught up in an ingenious time loop on board an abandoned ship. He also did Get Santa which was less interesting but even that didn’t feel like a conventional Christmas movie. 


The writer/director’s newest is crime caper Detour which at first glance seems to have an untypically generic plot. It’s about a teenager who gets angry with his step dad and full of anger and alcohol makes a dangerous deal with a petty crook that he can’t get out of. The film actually feels a little dated in places opening with an extended pole dancing sequence which harks back to all of those 80s and 90s crime thrillers when every criminal deal or police investigation had to take place in a strip club. The uncomfortable feeling that the film has throw backs to a less enlightened decade is then exacerbated by the casually homophobic conversation that takes place between two high schoolers. Then about twenty minutes in, true to Smith’s usual form, it becomes something a lot smarter.


Once the film’s conceit was established I fought hard to banish thoughts of Sliding Doors from my mind. The direction it seems to take is very similar to the main idea of the famous Gwyneth Paltrow’s Britcom but the comparison just seemed too obvious. A dozen lazy ‘Sliding Doors meets … ‘ pitches started going through my head and just as I’d managed to get past this and back to the movie I was watching, John Lynch who played the unfaithful boyfriend from that film turned up in a piece of casting that had to be deliberate. 


Clearly Smith was playing with my expectations and associations all along and I kind of love him for it. It’s not quite a Keyser Söze moment but the point at which the truth of what is going on is revealed was immensely satisfying in the way a good twist should be and I’m not even sure it was a twist. Now that’s wily film making!


So, slight issues of discrimination and outdated ideas aside (Smith was quite possibly being knowing here too) Detour is a clever and compelling film. The three central characters are played well by X-Men’s Tye Sheridan, London’s Bel Powley and Andrew McCarthy lookalike Emory Cohen in a performance a million miles away from the nice guy he played in Brooklyn. Detour has a small cinema release but is mostly going out On Demand because it doesn’t have Dwayne Johnson in it. My advice; if you’re thinking of seeing Baywatch this week, stop off here first. 

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