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Kyle Gallner saves The Passenger
Blumhouse Television and MGM+ deliver their last scare fest courtesy of director Carter Smith in The Passenger. Jack Stanley pens the film’s screenplay, which follows Randy (Johnny Berchtold) living a meaningless existence working at the local burger joint. Randy is perfectly content, fading into the background, wanting to do his job and go home.
After waking up from a nightmare one day, Randy heads to work, thinking his day will go according to plan. His slacker coworkers will make jokes at his expense, his boss will bully him, and his customers won’t appreciate him. Things take a turn, though, when his coworker Benson (Kyle Gallner) goes on a sudden and violent rampage leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Randy is forced to face his fears and confront his troubled past in order to survive.
From the opening moments of the film, I thought the film would take a specific route; however, the director and writer changed things up a bit. It’s quickly established that Benson is just angry at the world, although he’s keeping his temper in check at any moment he could blow. What ultimately sets Benson off isn’t surprising, and the directors handle it tactfully.
As the story unfolds, our two main characters follow familiar archetypes: the unstable alpha male and his unsuspecting accomplice. The film reminded me of a lesser-known 1988 movie called Kansas, where the trajectory is predictable, and the execution needs to feel natural.
In this case, Gallner takes on the showier role of Benson. Despite acting for decades, his performance in Dear White People (2014) made me appreciate his talent. On the other hand, Johnny Berthold’s character only requires a little depth as the secondary male lead. Any actor in the vein of Michael Cera could have played this role with a similar effect.
The only notable moment for Berchtold occurs during a scene where he reveals the root of his nightmares to Benson. Throughout the film’s brief duration, there are instances where Benson represents Randy’s conscience. I half-expected a twist reminiscent of Fight Club, but it never materializes. The film’s third act throws in Miss Beard (Liza Weil), Randall’s former teacher, who figures into the plot in a clever way.
I’m indifferent to The Passenger. While the film hails from horror giants Blumhouse, I hope the marketing campaign doesn’t try and sell this as a horror or a thriller to pull audiences in, as the film is more of a dark drama. While no one in the small cast ever comes close to reaching the heights of Kyle Gallner, I recommend the movie to fans of the actor.
Final Grade: C
THE PASSENGER is on Digital and On Demand on August 4, 2023, and coming to MGM+ later in 2023.
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