CAPSULE: Two friends, recently reunited after years apart, take a road trip to bury a dead woman, currently in the trunk of their car. On the way, they come across some really unpleasant people and obstacles to overcome in their dubious mission. The plot moves slowly enough for ‘Road To The Well’ to qualify for mumblecore. Later, it picks up a little but writer/director Jon Cvack does not try to rush it. This is a thriller and it has some thrills, but it needed more and they needed to be introduced earlier. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Frank (played by Laurence Fuller) is in a soul-crushing job somewhere around Los Angeles. Privately, he hates his job and hates his boss. Frank’s boss has decided to send Frank to the unpleasant northern branch. Frank is not happy about the relocation but does not have the spine to refuse, even after he finds his wife and boss in bed together. Frank knows he wants some kind of change in his life, but arriving on the scene is Jack (Micah Parker), Frank’s old friend. With a bit of a pep talk Frank is having sex with an attractive woman, Ruby. But wouldn’t you know it, while Frank and Ruby are having sex in the parking lot someone kills Ruby. Frank would be an obvious suspect for the police.
Jack suggests that Frank bury the corpse himself somewhere up north, accepting Frank’s relocation north. Then the woman will seem to have just disappeared and nobody will look for Frank. They begin a macabre road trio north to take Frank to his new job to see some old friends and to dispose of the body. That is an absurd situation that might have been the basis for more humour. Somehow the humour of the situation is just not there. Writer/director Jon Cvack creates mostly unpleasant characters. That approach can work from some writers. Here it gets a little tiresome in the early parts of the film.
If the story was handled with a little more comic verve and perceptive observations of its characters, this ‘Road To The Well’ has the makings of a reasonable comedy. Instead, it meanders and risks the viewers’ frustration. The story takes too long to get going and then is short on action. It meanders along slow and a little overly talky. Eventually, we get to know both Frank and Jack somewhat better, but that just makes the talk a little more interesting. It is no substitute for action or suspense. Frank remains a sort of empty character throughout and we get the feeling that Jack is a bit shifty but neither really pulls the viewer into their characters. On the other hand, Marshall R. Teague takes acting honours as Dale, an intense character who is ex- military and whom the boys run up against late in the film.
If this film had been wound a little tighter, with maybe the dramatic tension of a ‘Blood Simple’, the film would have worked and, as more of a comedy, it might have worked. At times, mostly near the end, there are moments of tension, especially those involving Dale who plays cat and mouse with Frank and Jack. The North California scenery is a nice bonus and well shot but the film could have stood to be more tersely edited rather than dragged out to 108 minutes. Somehow it needed more crackle. I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2017