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Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi Make a Thrilling Team in Indie 'He Went That Way'

"You won't find Jesus in Amarillo."

It is the summer of 1964, a time of great difficulty for the United States of America. Homegrown vitriol is gaining towards the neverending Vietnam War. The recent death of President Kennedy and the growing Civil Rights Movement makes for a backdrop of uncertainty. Route 66 is at its mythological peak, so enter a buddy road trip drama worth its weight in crime spree gold.

In his directorial debut, filmmaker Jeffrey Darling presents a tense crime thriller based on a disturbing true story. On a desolate stretch of Route 66, two strangers embark on a road trip together. Young hitchhiker Bobby (Jacob Elordi) gets picked up by celebrity animal handler Jim (Zachary Quinto). The drive gets a bit thorny off the bat when it is revealed that Jim is carrying a chimpanzee named Spanky, a quasi-celebrity animal trained to star on television, in his car. 

The other hiccup in an otherwise lonely road trip? Bobby might be a serial killer on the run from the law. But, Jim doesn't know that quite yet.

With rough roads ahead, both figuratively and literally, the two men traverse the country, hoping to arrive at their final destination alive. Their personalities clash almost immediately, and as revelations that threaten their well-being come to light, the drive only becomes more treacherous. A series of misunderstandings and close-to-the-chest secrets seek to unveil new and gripping events that change both men's lives.

Based on the true crimes of Larry Lee Ranes, a serial killer suspected of murdering five people in the 1960s, "He Went That Way" is a tight 90-minute thriller built on two quirky yet magnetic performances. Loaded with sexual innuendo and themes of identity and cruelty, the film provides a glimpse of what it means to judge a book by its cover. As the trip becomes increasingly dangerous, and Bobby takes Jim as his hostage, the risk of getting caught becomes heavier for both men involved.

Darling's debut as a director should be a slam dunk with a premise and a fictionalized tale based on a true account. However, the film devolves into multiple themes and frequent tone changes that never find their footing. Quinto and Elordi are doing their best here to keep the story moving, but their perplexing accents and sexual tension create obstacles for viewing pleasure. One minute, Jim is Bobby's hostage; the next, he is helping Bobby get dressed up for a night of ballroom dancing…with the chimpanzee in tow. It's all a bit too off-kilter to grasp where these two men are headed.

Jacob Elordi's sex appeal and Zachary Quinto's dark humor might provide enough reasons for audiences to check this picture out. In the long run, there might be disappointment at the end of a semi-long drive, mainly because there doesn't seem to be a balance between the various layers of what should be a provocative movie. The plot is fascinating, though Bobby's temper and Jim's peculiarity frustrate the premise to a tedious degree. The true-to-life characters all have their moments, but by the film's climax, it's almost not worth the effort. Said characters ultimately become parodies of their own design, and there's no connection between the audience and what is presented on screen.

"He Went That Way" is a worthwhile attempt that scrambles to find its narrative by the time the credits roll.

Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟1/2


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