THE PASSENGER (2023)
Release Date: 08/04/23 [VOD]
Genre: Thriller. Drama.
Studio: Blumhouse Television. MGM+.
"A man is forced to face his fears and confront his troubled past. He must find a way to survive when his co-worker snaps and goes on a violent killing spree."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
The Passenger is the latest film in a long line of horror/thrillers from Blumhouse; one that’s literally and figuratively quite a ride. The movie will, at most, drive home the importance of living life to its fullest. At the least, it will make you SERIOUSLY side-eye the people you work with. The film follows Randy (Johnny Berchtold), a 20-year-old small town fast food worker who has resigned himself to a less-than-thrilling existence. Things change when Johnny’s life becomes dramatically entangled with that of Benson (Kyle Gallner), his mysterious coworker with a raging ax to grind.
The story begins when a seemingly typical day goes off the rails. A fed up Benson goes ballistic – killing his boss and two annoying coworkers in bloody fashion. Puzzlingly, he decides to spare a teary-eyed Randy from death, instead roping him into being a reluctant accomplice to his crime. Fueled by rage and undoubtedly, fear, Benson drags Randy on a frenzied joy ride. And it’s one that neither seems to know when or where will end. Benson, inherently sensing that his time is running low, uses what may be his final hours of freedom to help Randy make amends with some pivotal life events that got him into his current rut.
Along the way we're given some insight into the two mens’ troubled past. A visit to Benson's mom (Sue Rock) sheds some light on what was likely not a wholesome upbringing, but the unconditional love between the two is palpable. Benson’s past is, frustratingly, never fully explored – though this appears to be intentional as the film feels more like an ending to his journey and a jumping off point for Randy. An encounter with Randy’s former grade school teacher (Liza Weil) sets in motion what will be, in essence, the final nail in the coffin for Benson. It also serves as a catalyst for Randy being faced with one of the scariest decisions of his life.
The strength of the two leads is the glue that holds the movie together, with Gallner channeling a ferocious intensity fans have grown to know and love. Berchtold, meanwhile, plays off Gallner’s vehemence with a doe-eyed naivete that is strikingly believable. It’s a 94-minute slow burn with some bumps along the way, but Gallner and Berchtold are a match made in indie thriller heaven.