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No Right Turn (2009)

DVD Cover (Lono Entertainment)
Crime, Crime Thriller, Psychological Drama
David Noel Bourke David Noel Bourke
Sira Stampe Sira Stampe
Laura Bach Laura Bach
Tao Hildebrand Tao Hildebrand
Lars Lippert Lars Lippert
Sami Darr Sami Darr

5.9 / 10 - 3 votes

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Review by Chad
Added: December 24, 2008
"A fairytale masquerading as a crime thriller." When I saw that line used to describe No Right Turn and after I saw the slick little trailer that the filmmakers whipped up to promote the film, I knew that I couldn't say no when asked if I'd like to take a look at it. The fact that I then saw that they were attempting to tell this tale in the style of those old pulp novels was just icing on the cake. So, let's run down the list of things that this film had working in its favor before I ever popped it into my DVD player, shall we? I love those old, gritty pulp novels from years gone by, and I love films that attempt to emulate that style. I really enjoy crime thrillers, and I'm always intrigued to see how filmmakers will attempt to blend conventional genres with fairytales. With that said, I may be a little biased while reviewing this film, but don't let my bias fool you into thinking that I'm overrating it: this was really a damned good film.

To kick off the film, we pay a visit to an obviously distraught young woman who is sitting in her bathtub with candles and rose pedals covering the floor beside her. She also happens to have a gun in her hand, a gun which is loaded with exactly one bullet, and she's alternating between crying, singing "Happy Birthday" to herself, and squeezing the trigger while pointing the barrel at her temple. More on this little lady later on in the film, but for now, we cut over to...

...a drug dealer named Johnny (Tao Hildebrand) who disguises his business by delivering his illegal goods alongside a piping-hot pizza; imagine calling Dominos, and instead of a complimentary side of breadsticks, you got a nice little bag of cocaine. Johnny has big plans in life and has been putting money aside over the years, but unfortunately for him and his former prostitute of a wife Nina (Laura Bach), he enjoys "sampling" his own product a little too much. We also learn that Nina has been sleeping with Teddy (Lars Lippert), a customer of Johnny's, but is it strictly business or is she secretly cheating on her husband?

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that these folks are a small step above the scum of society, but this is where things get interesting. You see, Johnny is once again having a little too much to drink and putting a little too much up his nose down at the local watering hole, so Nina decides to leave him behind and head home early. On the way home, a couple of thugs stop her, strike up a small conversation, and out of nowhere, decide to rape her. Enter Monella (Sira Stampe), the lady who was previously contemplating suicide whilst sitting in her bathtub, and with a stab here and a slice there, the two thugs run off into the night and Nina has a new best friend.

The two start spending more and more time together over the next couple of weeks, and it quickly becomes obvious that they're becoming more than just close friends. Then, Nina lets Monella in on a secret: she's planning on leaving Johnny, but she's going to take every last bit of money that he's saved before doing so. She asks Monella to help, and even though she's hesitant, the little lady can't say no to her new lover. From there... well, think of how those stories from the classic pulp magazines play out, and you'll begin to see where this is going.

Observant readers may have noticed that I mentioned fantasy elements in the opening paragraph of my review, but I sort of failed to mention anything about them in the actual synopsis. This is because they don't play a huge part in the overall storyline, and when they do come in, it's hard to describe without giving away too much of the storyline. Suffice it to say that they are present to a certain extent, and while you may walk away disappointed if that was the sole aspect of the film that excited you, I personally felt that the filmmakers worked this angle just enough to give the film a certain air of mystery without ever crossing that fine line between "neat" and "corny."

The "crime thriller" label is the one that this film runs with throughout the vast majority of the story, and really, I had no complaints with the way that this story was told and where it ended up going. There are plenty of twists thrown in to keep you guessing, betrayal is the word of the day, and people get figuratively (and literally) stabbed in the back time and time again. Although I would be lying if I said that this type of storyline was completely original, I will say that the story itself was entertaining enough to nullify that complaint, and again, it's not exactly a film that will allow the audience to figure out the ending before it reveals itself.

As you can certainly imagine, a character-driven storyline such as this requires the cast to turn it up a notch with their acting abilities to make the film work. You can easily cast some half-ass actors in something like, say, a zombie flick or a slasher film, but in a movie where the characters themselves are the selling point, you'd better cast some people who know what they're doing in front of the camera. Thankfully, all of the leading roles were handed over to people who obviously took a class or two on the finer points of acting, and thus, we're given characters who may not always be likable, but they certainly grab the viewer's attention. Tao Hildebrand in particular turns in a damned fine performance as a man who you'll alternately want to strangle and sympathize with, and his female costars each manage to steal a scene or two.

I also loved the general look of the film, as each of the sets were given proper attention and served as a good bit of eye-candy while watching the story unfold. Almost everything takes place in the city, and it's presented here as exactly the type of seedy, grimy place that one would expect a story like this to take place in. The cameramen take full advantage of this setting with some fine shots and some exceptionally good settings (the bar that Johnny frequents is particularly good), and in stark contrast to the city, there's a barren, snow-covered field that comes into play that also provides some great scenery.

Overall, No Right Turn comes highly recommended if you're a fan of the pulp crime thriller that Quentin Tarantino popularized with films such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. While this one may not have the star-power of those two films, it certainly carries with it a comparable storyline and equally-enjoyable characters, and truth be told, I can't say anything bad about it - hell, even the soundtrack shocked me as it was full of catchy songs that also fit the scene that they were presented in. So, I do believe that a rare 10/10 is in order - catch this one as soon as you can.
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Crispy #1: Crispy - added 02/08/2011, 11:19 PM
Excellent little neo-noir. High 9.
BuryMeAlive #2: BuryMeAlive - added 03/27/2013, 05:48 PM
Finally got around to watch this one. I'm disappointed in you Chad, giving a 10/10 rating on the DVD cover like that. It's not bad, but I didn't really care for it at all. 4/10
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