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Movie review: ‘Scenic Route’

Posted 8:52pm on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

R (strong language, violence, a scene of sexuality); 86 min.

Scenic Route brings to mind two things: It’s just a platform to show that maybe Josh Duhamel — aka Mr. Fergie or that dude from All My Children and the “Transformers” movies — can act after all; and it’s an extended riff on what a Twilight Zone episode might have done a half-century ago in a half-hour.

But once you put aside these two prejudices, it’s actually a well-made, well-acted low-budget thriller that is more resonant than expected.

Corporate climber Mitchell (Duhamel) and struggling writer Carter (Dan Fogler) are two buddies on a road trip when their truck stalls on a lonely road in the desert Southwest with no cellphone coverage. But this was no mere breakdown. Carter intentionally sabotaged the vehicle so that he and Mitch could have some bonding time like in the old days, before Mitch disappeared behind a wall of career, marriage, and parenting.

But then Carter can’t get the truck started, no joke this time, and the whole stunt — along with hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and delirium — leads these friends to say what they really think of each other and the lives they lead. Needless to say, violence ensues.

The film is directed by brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz ( Mass Transit) and written by Burleson’s Kyle Killen, whose Mind Games series hits ABC this fall and whose ill-fated Lone Star and Awake TV shows sported intriguing premises. Scenic Route manages to build a mounting sense of dread — and come to a clever twist of a conclusion — even though it’s only Mitchell, Carter and the bleak landscape on screen for most of the film.

Some will think of this as a re-run of the 2002 movie Gerry, starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as two dudes lost in the wilderness. And others might be expecting Scenic Route to take a turn toward horror, but there are no chainsaw-wielding murderers or aliens haunting this stretch of desert. The only monsters are the ones that Mitchell and Carter brought inside of them.

Exclusive: Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley, Dallas, and on video-on-demand

— Cary Darling

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