2007Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Cast: Scott Mechlowicz, Amelia Warner, Shaun Evans
he High Council of Film Reviewers have been dabbling in genetic wizardry. They have issued each of its trusted knights with a blue toad. These toads have been bred from our individual DNA (that’s why they wanted a semen sample!) and calibrated with our weaknesses and desires. The toad is nourished by the good films we view and write about and poisoned by the distasteful ones, becoming violent, sticky, and largely unmanageable. I have named my toad Ricky.
Ricky has been in good shape lately, in fact, he’s been on somewhat of a roll. Having treated him to Tokyo Story, Los Olvidados, and Petulia in quick succession, he was gurgling with joy, licking my feet in appreciation. I began thinking that being a father isn’t so bad. Sure, he spits venom at my girlfriend, shits on my pillow and screeches in prayer all night—but being a parent is about facing such responsibilities. However, after sneaking him into watch the road-to-hell movie Gone, I realized I wasn’t up to the job.
It wasn’t just the disappointment in and utter predictability of the plot, it was the lack of ambition in the film that was anathema to everything Ricky needs to survive. There has been a rash of road movies since the success of the wonderfully disturbing Wolf Creek, Calvaire, and Switchblade Romance. The problem with the films that have followed is that they are lack surprise and are essentially quick knock-offs. Suspicion is aroused at the sheer number of these films, making it reasonable to assume that the power of the narrative has been diluted somewhat. Of course all strangers in these films are creeps and of course they will try to kill at least one of the leading actors. It’s a given that perhaps we have to live with if we are to try extract any kind of sustenance from the sub-genre. However, Gone does nothing but go through the motions of the thriller genre, still somehow hoping—shamelessly—to draw some excitement in the last five minutes.
Scouse tourist Alex is lost in Sydney, looking for his girlfriend, Sophie. He bumps into Taylor, an American who knows the city (and every inch of the enormous country it seems) and agrees to take him to the part of town where Sophie can be found lolling desirably in the sunshine, listening to winsome acoustic music. “Why don’t we all travel together,” proposes Taylor (who has seemingly, inexplicably, already murdered Sophie’s friend, Ingrid). “Sure” they agree, “we’ve got nothing else to do for the rest of the movie, why not?” So, they drive through the beautiful, barren landscapes of the outback, Alex growing increasingly nervous over the mind games and grab-ass of Taylor. The beautiful, (yet somehow) barren landscape of Sophie is generously presented to us on a number of occasions and everyone should be pleased with at least that aspect of the film. Taylor begins to create divisions between the couple until Alex suddenly disappears and the film culminates in gruesome carnage, involving a small wire partition spearing Taylor’s stomach.
I really haven’t given anything away. From the moment the threesome get into the car, it will end this way. The beauty of Wolf Creek was that the first 45 minutes were so naturalistic, so pleasantly innocent and playful that it lulled you into expecting another type of film entirely. I think it was Breakdown that re-invigorated this genre of seemingly harmless incident spiralling into horror. On this occasion, the cuddly JT Walsh played a kidnapping bastard on the hunt for cash. That film had the element of surprise in its armour, something Gone could never hope to achieve—partly because the three trailers preceding this feature were all of a similar kind. This included Sean Bean as The Hitcher, pointing a sawn-off at a helicopter—a million miles away from the subtle menace of Ida Lupino’s effective original. Nothing is more clear than the fact that Taylor is nuts. It doesn’t even boil down to anticipating when he’ll reveal his true character as he dutifully does so within the first five minutes by reading and deleting one of Alex’s text messages. With the plot so transparent, Ricky and I were hoping for some great B-Movie turns from the cast. Both of us were severely disappointed. One of us befouled himself because of it.
Jim Caviezal (or is it James since he was Jesus?) milks the role of Rennie in Highwaymen (“Where Terror Hits the Road”) for all it’s worth. And bless the screenwriters who threw in the death of his girlfriend as a back story and catalyst for action. An enjoyable and preposterous 80 minutes: a mix of Jeepers Creepers and Cronenberg’s Crash. The film is a success because it is so overt. The meaning of this schlock is right there in the guy who keeps running everyone over for fun. For me, that’s motivation enough. You can’t explain the senseless compulsion, so why bother? He just loves metal on flesh. That’s fine by me.
Conversely, the director of Gone, Ringan Ledwidge, has created a strange film that travels a great distance but goes nowhere. As it is, the title refers to the few people who were sitting with me when it started. When the credits rolled, most of them were ‘gone’. Taylor seems to kill people because they lie and cheat on one another. Firstly, I find it hard to believe that someone so young and good-looking could be so emotionally disturbed and hold such a grudge. If Taylor was ten years older, I could accept that the wear-and-tear of existence had deranged him in someway, that there is a lonely gap within in widened by some bitter experience. This is something Wolf Creek does so well with John Jarratt’s crazed bushman, revealing glimpses of the origins of his psychopathy. Secondly, it’s an unacceptable attempt at exploring him as a character. If they are going to give him motivation, open him up, be courageous and committed, do it properly.
Ricky was vomiting blood for days after this film. I hope he’s okay because I have become strangely attached to him. I sat him in front of The House of Mirth last night and I think this has gone some way to remedy what ails him. If you happen to suffer such symptoms after having seen Gone, try your own dose of quality cinema to get over it. Hopefully, after a few days, all traces of it should be out of your system.