SXSW 2017: 68 Kill
Trent Haaga, best known for writing Evan Katz's breakthrough film Cheap Thrills, takes the directorial reins with 68 Kill - a crazy, over-the-top escapade that's equal doses violent and hilarious.
Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) a ne'er do well guy living in a trailer with his girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) and making a living pumping septic tanks, is desperate for a better standard of living. Upon returning home one day, Liza gets the idea to rob her sugar daddy's safe that currently holds $68,000 - enough for the two of them to get away and start a new life. Despite the inherent red flags, Chip goes along with the plan, but what he doesn't account for is the unrestrained, and deadly side that Liza brings to the situation. Over the course of the next few hours, Chip finds himself in numerous morally-challenged dilemmas, that test his character and willingness to do the right thing.
Taking an insane approach to the dangerous cool girl aesthetic, 68 Kill is one of the most entertaining comedic thrillers of the year so far. Adapted from the novel by Bryan Smith, Haaga undertakes a visceral sensibility to the story, packing a lot into a story that moves at a brisk pace and doesn't overstay its welcome, and one that is full of danger and high stakes, while never losing its direction.
It also manages to subvert common established tropes we're used to seeing in similar films, where the majority of male characters are screaming and helpless, and female characters are the ones taking charge with their inventiveness. Outside of Liza, Chip is later accompanied by the feisty Violet (Alisha Boe), who despite falling victim to their dangerous course of action, plays things cool and ends up catching Chip's affection. There's also a sweet role for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night star Sheila Vand, who nearly steals the show in the film's second half, as Monica, a devious gas station attendant who's out for what Chip has.
68 Kill is one of the biggest surprises at SXSW this year, and shows that Trent Haaga is a name to look out for. More than your average violent ride, it takes the audience along through a number of wild scenarios, adorned with a series of dimensionalized, grounded characters. While a number of them are deranged psychotics (for lack of a better word), they always capture your attention, and make you wonder just where the story is going to go next. 68 Kill comes well recommended, and is worth taking a chance on.