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Dustin Putman

Detour  (2017)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: April 25, 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.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Detour" zooms onto Blu-ray with an often dazzling 1080p transfer, one that capably handles a number of dramatic lighting schemes with effortless aplomb. The opening scene set in a strip club is awash in atmospheric red and blue spotlights, while sequences set in a nighttime Las Vegas are full of noir-inspired neon. Throughout, colors do not once bleed into each other, banding is nonexistent, and details do not suffer amidst the darker surroundings. Daytime scenes are eye-openers, bringing depth and vivid natural colors in their own right, from dusty yellows, browns and golds in desert sequences, to the green of the grass in Harper's backyard. Facial features, surface textures, and backgrounds are well-resolved with consistent HD-ready clarity. A few very minor instances of edge enhancement can be glimpsed for eagle-eyed viewers, but otherwise this is a close-to-flawless transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is excellent in its own right, from the roar of the car motor to a startling late scene involving a tractor-trailer giving the surrounds an immersive potency. Dialogue is additionally always clear, and music nicely complements the lossless mix.

Blu-ray Features
  • Deleted Scenes (6:19, HD)
  • "A Detour with the Cast & Crew: The Characters & Filmmaking" Featurette (8:07, HD)
  • Interview with Writer/Director Christopher Smith (9:36, HD)
  • Interview with Actor Tye Sheridan (1:36, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:09, HD)
Bottom Line
Magnolia Home Entertainment, in association with their genre arm Magnet Releasing, have given Christopher Smith's twisty neo-noir thriller "Detour" a fitting Blu-ray release to hopefully make up for its under-the-radar theatrical birth in January 2017. Influences from such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen, and John Dahl are obvious, but the innovative storytelling structure goes a long way in reinvigorating the routine. There are, perhaps, one too many corkscrews in the plot during the homestretch, but the performances and Smith's stylish directorial prowess make this moody journey worth taking. Recommended.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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