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One Wild Ride

Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi star in He Went That Way, available to stream January 12.

Jacob Elordi

When Jim picks up a hitchhiker named Bobby in the middle of the desert, he figures he is simply offering someone who is down on their luck a ride through Death Valley, CA. The innocent driver quickly learns that he is, in fact, transporting an admitted serial killer, who was recently discharged from the military, down a desolate stretch of Route 66. It’s also soon revealed that caged in the back of the vehicle is Jim’s recently retired, world-famous, ice-skating chimpanzee companion.

The almost unbelievable scenario sets the scene for a film that is based on actual events and is being brought to life in the thriller He Went That Way, starring out actor Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi, of Euphoria fame, available on demand on January 12.

The film opens with a note to the audience that the story on screen “really (mostly) happened.” The source material for He Went That Way is the story of professional ice skater and animal handler Dave Pitts and hitchhiking murderer Larry Lee Ranes. Elordi, who takes on the role of the killer, and Quinto portray the fictionalized versions of the road-tripping duo whose extremely opposite personalities and values ultimately lead to their unlikely bond.

Quinto’s “Jim” helped make Spanky, the aforementioned real-life chimpanzee, a household name. The recently retired primate is being sold to a family in Chicago when we meet the pair. Spanky is easily recognized by Elordi’s murderous “Bobby” when he discovers him in the back seat, noting that he has seen the chimp on the Johnny Carson Show, among other noteworthy appearances. The three embark on an open-road excursion as temperatures begin to rise, threats at gunpoint become more intense, and suspenseful moments ensue.

Set in the summer of 1964, the film relies on props, such as vehicles, and an emphasis on Quinto’s wardrobe to bring the audience back in time. Additional scenes, including one at a diner, round out the setting that transports viewers to the past. The character of Jim is submissive throughout the film. In addition to his sheepish candor with Bobby, Jim submits repeatedly to his abrasive wife, whom we meet only through phone calls between the two throughout the film.

Elordi, who has celebrated a banner year starring in successful films such as Priscilla and Saltburn, embraces his inner James Dean as he dons a leather jacket and swoon-worthy smolder. He completes his character portrayal with a tinge of 1990s Matt Dillon and enunciation choices on certain letters that call back to Heath Ledger’s “Joker,” as he leads Quinto’s character through the desert. Bobby shares stories about those he’s murdered thus far and tales of his abusive familial past, all while explaining that he is ultimately en route to return to his estranged girlfriend back home in Michigan.

He Went That Way is a rollercoaster that earns its suspense category through key scenes where Jim aims to keep Bobby at ease during their trek, as opposed to watching Elordi actually murder anyone—aside from the flashbacks we see occasionally during the film’s hour and 35-minute run. The car ride is reminiscent of the episode “House by the Lake” from The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, in which two characters embark on their own suspenseful murderous road trip that was also based on a true story—although that outcome was much more grim.

 

Throughout the film, Bobby begins to show signs of leaving his criminal ways behind him, but continues to return to his dark tendencies when triggered by Jim or other supporting characters they meet. The audience is challenged to pinpoint exactly what will trigger Bobby, since we know so little about the character, which is representative of Bobby’s relationship with the killer.

The plot is zany, but the suspense is ultimately lacking throughout most of the film, save for a few moments—namely one where Jim concocts a plan to exact revenge on his brother-in-law, who owes him money by manipulating Bobby to shoot and kill him at his desert compound. And although Ranes did ultimately go to prison for his murders, we are left wondering about the fate of Elordi’s character following his final scene. The film concludes with Spanky’s fate with his new owners and a surprisingly absurd narrator reveal, which cements this film as a suspenseful comedy.

It may not be the film of the year, but it’s still a fun watch. Much to viewers’ delight, the credits include archival footage of Pitts and Spanky ice skating and performing while the retiree recalls his real life encounter with Ranes back in the ’60s. Audiences may have their gazes affixed to Elordi, but the true star of the film might just be the almost too-human chimpanzee. Props to the puppeteers for making the chimp such a sympathetic character.


He Went That Way is available on VOD on all platforms beginning January 12.

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Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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