Thursday, July 29, 2021

Tailgate: Dutch Road Rage

Remember when your gruff driver’s ed. teacher told you to “drive defensively?” That was good advice. Dutch father Hans does not follow it, even though he has his whole family in the car. As a result, he inspires homicidal road rage from a serial killer in Lodewijk Crijns’ Tailgate, which releases theatrically and digitally tomorrow.

Hans is pretty frazzled by his nagging wife Diana and bratty young daughters Milou and Robine. He is also less than thrilled to be going to lunch with his scoldy mother and his mildly dementia-suffering father. Hans is spoiling or a fight, so when “Ed the Exterminator” takes exception to his tailgating at a rest stop, the frazzled father refuses to apologize or back down.

Unbeknownst to Hans, Ed is experienced at running people off the road and he is fully loaded with pesticide that is toxic to humans. The psychopath isn’t squeamish when it comes to menacing the kids along with the adults, but he rather annoyingly persists in lecturing them on their poor parenting (which admittedly seems to be somewhat valid), in between his acts of violence.

The prospect of watching an innocent family getting terrorized is not so appetizing, so Crijns tries to balance the heat with acid by making Hans abrasively obnoxious. Unfortunately, that just makes the film thoroughly unpleasant, in nearly every way.

Arguably, Jeroen Spitzenberger is quite effective as Hans, because he makes viewers want to kill him too. The same is true to a lesser degree for Anniek Pheifer as Diana. You would think the serial killer stalking them would stop the dysfunctional couple from bickering for ten seconds, but apparently not. On the other hand, Willem de Wolf is credibly hulking, but problematically nondescript as the killer.

Frustratingly, much of Crijns’ screenplay hinges on Hans and Diana being too panicked to think straight or handle simple tasks, like placing 911 calls. That might realistic in theory, but it gets repetitive, contrived, and tiresome in practice.

is so mean-spirited and nihilistic, it just couldn’t end soon enough. There is nothing fun about the film, and it isn’t stylistically distinctive. Not recommended, Tailgate releases tomorrow (7/30) in real and virtual theaters, as well as on VOD platforms.