Scenic Route (2013)



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Mitchell (Josh Duhamel) and Carter (Dan Fogler), life-long friends who have drifted apart, are on a road trip when their old pickup breaks down, leaving them stranded on an isolated desert road. Nobody can pick apart a man like his best friend, and as the relentless elements of the desert grind them down, they start to attack each other's life decisions with unwavering brutality. As they question who they are and who they could have been, their agitation leads to physical confrontation and ultimately knife-wielding madness, and what begins as an inconvenience becomes a very real life or death struggle.(c) Vertical Entertainment
R (for language, some violence and a scene of sexuality)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
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Critic Reviews for Scenic Route

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (9)

It's actually a well-made, well-acted low-budget thriller that is more resonant than expected.

Full Review… | August 22, 2013
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/
Top Critic

At the very least shows you how to make a smart, cheap little movie with only two actors, one main exterior set and no special effects.

Full Review… | August 22, 2013
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

Kyle Killen's script is generally uninspired and fairly predictable ...

Full Review… | August 22, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It begins with energy, dulls in the middle stretches but redeems itself with a final destination that makes the trip feel worth it.

Full Review… | August 22, 2013
USA Today
Top Critic

Fogler impresses with some brooding edge, but neither he nor the location photography is enough to recommend you join him on this doomed trip.

Full Review… | August 22, 2013
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Mitchell and Carter never extend beyond the archetypes of Unhappy Family Man and Bitter Failed Artist. Nor do Duhamel and Fogler's inconsistent performances breathe life into their flat characters.

Full Review… | August 21, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Scenic Route


Directors Cat
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You know that there's a woman somewhere out there who is thinking, "You see, this is what happens when you don't take any girls on a road trip to make the men ask for directions", and when I say somewhere, I mean quite the difficult to place to find, as hardly anyone knows about this film, let alone a stereotypical, early-mid-life wife who still cares whether or not her husband asks for directions. Seriously though, I've heard of taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque, Bugs, but this is all kinds of wrong, and I'm not just talking about the casting. It's the, perhaps for somebody out there, long-awaited collaboration between Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, so you know that this is bound to be quite the effective psychological drama. I can't figure out which one of these guys is the bigger comedic actor, as Duhamel has done some attempts at dramatic films that ended up being about as funny as plenty of things that Fogler has done. If nothing else, these guys seem to be challenging each other to see who can look the most hard rock, and looking at Duhamel with all of that dirt and a Mohawk in the poster and after a while into the final product, I'd say he's in the lead, even though Fogler does sometimes try to make himself the new Jack Black, and has just gotten done playing a Russian in "Europa Report", which is pretty hardcore. Well, it would appear that Fogler is starting to strongly consider getting into more serious roles, which would be great and all is people were actually seeing these films or, well, for that matter, actually like them. Jokes aside, I'm kind of surprised to find that this "dramatic" thriller starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler is as well-received as it is, and yet, there are still some complaints from people who like this film, including myself. At this point, we've seen a film like this time and again, and no matter how much this particularly interpretation of an age-old bottle film formula tries to freshen things up with a buddy element that, in some ways, expands on tonal dynamicity and exploration of human layers in a crisis situations, even if it comes at the expense of the subjective immersion value that typically characterizes films like this one, this film still has little to say that's all that unique, even anything to say that's all that enlightening when it comes to developmental depth. Among the most undercooked elements in this film is motivation for the leads to end up in the main desert setting, and that really shakes investment, no matter how much the writer Kyle Killen tries to compensate by bombarding you with expository dialogue, even if its kick is limited, for although there is a lot of talk, expository depth to the characterization that drives this drama goes limited by objective dialogue, rather than more prominence in subjective visuals. The film stands to say more, and yet, it's still draggy, running a short length, but still offering a story so thin that not even a runtime of about 87 minutes is tight enough to prevent storytelling from getting bloated on filler and aimless exposition which are reasonably interesting, but slow down pacing and can't fully replace more immersive subjective storytelling. To tell you the truth, I really like bottle films, in spite of their natural shortcomings, but what a lot of rewarding dramatic, if not intense meditations upon man in claustrophobic environments that test humanity is their immersion value, and while this film is immersive in plenty of ways, all of the aimless rambling between the leads establishes too much objectivity in the place of subjectivity, making it all the harder to get drawn in enough to deny many of the natural shortcomings to this subject matter. As much as I love films like "Cast Away" and "127 Hours", no matter how incredibly well-directed and acted they are, they could never be great, as a story concept this minimalist limits potential something fierce, and it's hard enough to deny that when looking at good bottle films, let alone this one, which not tight enough in structure or realized enough in atmospheric bite for you to overlook dramatic limitations. I've always said that it's interesting how much impact you can get out of films this minimalist, but this time, it's hard to deny what can happen if you do not compensate for natural shortcomings about as much as you can, because even though this film is well-done in a lot of places, there are too many issues in storytelling for the final product to stand a chance of escaping underwhelmingness. Nonetheless, while the effort is not what it could have been, it stands to be a bigger misfire, even as a portrait of an unsettling setting for men to get end up stuck in. A bottle thriller that is almost refreshingly more driven by dialogue than sheer environment, this film offers a central, California desert setting that is not dynamic enough or thoroughly well-explored enough to be all that immersive, but still pretty distinguished as a compliment to the selling of a claustrophobic environment that is still pretty important in this character study. Fair style and engaging settings are there, and yet, as I've been saying, they're not as played up as they are in other bottle dramas, as this is more about the character interactions, which, in order to succeed as engaging, need good writing, something that is indeed found here, at least to a certain extent, because even though Kyle Killen's script gets to be aimless, dullness is kept at bay by sharp, but still down-to-earth dialogue and humor, as well as some subtly colorful set pieces and, of course, inspired characterization, which is questionable in its excessiveness, yet still thoughtful in drawing interesting humans with relatable and, in some ways, disturbing layers. Really, while the writing isn't especially compelling, it's pretty interesting to learn about these leads, and when the going gets to tough, fall-outs in humanity really do bite, especially when sold by the leads. For a while, leads Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler aren't given a whole lot to do, but they're consistently relatively revelatory in their abandoning their superficial, if not comedic roots in order to share very layered, very effective chemistry, bookended by two distinguished charismas and range whose dynamicity slowly, but surely, builds, until you're faced with dramatically charged performances that are not simply surprises from Duhamel and Fogler, but just downright outstanding. You really do have to see this film to see Duhamel and Fogler showcase just what they're capable of, because even though they haven't completely abandoned their types, they bring depth to their performances that does a whole lot to drive the subtle progressive of this character study, though not without the help of Kevin and Michael Goetz's offscreen efforts. Now, don't be expecting the Goetz brothers to deliver nearly as much as Duhamel and Fogler do in their excellent lead performance, or even as much as Killen does in his pretty decent script, as there is not enough directorial bite to fully compensate for unfocused areas in writing, resulting in a certain underwhelmingness to the final product and, by extension, direction, which is still inspired enough to sustain an atmosphere that never gets dry to the point of losing entertainment value, and whose meditations upon actual dramatic material kick with anything from biting tension to a degree of emotional resonance. Were the film to offer more of a dramatic heart or more intensity, or even less aimlessness, it would have come closer to rewarding, maybe to the point of achieving a somewhat solid status, yet when it's all said and done, through all of the flaws to challenge the memorability of the project on the whole, there is enough inspiration on and off of the screen to endear, no matter how much you'll walk away wishing for a little bit more. When the trip is over, a little bit of familiarity, a fair bit of underdevelopment and a great deal of aimlessness make it hard to ignore the substantial deal of natural shortcomings that leave the final product to sputter out as underwhelming, yet the immersive locations, clever and well-characterized writing, outstanding performances by Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, and reasonably inspired direction by brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz prove to be enough to make "Scenic Route" an adequately engaging and sometimes gripping, if generally improvable dramatic-thriller meditation upon two friends whose comradery are tested along with their survival skills when stranded with the elements and personal demons. 2.5/5 - Fair

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

three stars

MisterYoda ?
MisterYoda ?

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