SCOOTER (2019)

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SCOOTER
Directed by Matthew Wohl

It’s Blair Witch on bikes! Combining elements of Jackass and Top Gear, The Three Amigos is a YouTube show about three friends doing what they’ve done since childhood: stupid shit. Will (Zimmerman), Juan (Pindea) and Paul (Tuck) get their kicks (and their hits) by doing stunts, games and other forms of tomfoolery. For this episode, which we get told is the last, they ride from Miami to New Orleans (860 miles) on 50cc scooters, i.e. bloody slow ones. To make it worse, they have to go by the backroads, as people on the highway don’t take kindly to them driving a mere 45 mph. Along the way, they prank each other, talk about sex with women in mermaid costumes and eventually witness a murder. What makes it worse is the man that does it also happens to be the local sheriff. Who they gonna call?

Despite a scant running time, like its bikes, Scooter doesn’t go anywhere fast. It’s just over halfway through the film when our trio finds themselves on the wrong side of the law. Until then it’s not necessarily time wasted: the beginning sections, in which we see our trio horse around, and explain how their show works, makes for fairly good scene-setting – even if it’s more telling than showing. And while their antics never seem as off-the-hook as they’d have us think, being at best mildly wild, they are at least believable as a group of friends. The general road-trip feel is well done too, with enough use of establishing drone shots and visits to twee roadsides diners/ hotels to give a good a sense of location. Still, with minimal character drama to speak of (beyond two of them temporarily falling out over something too bizarre to take seriously) their rapport has to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, despite them being easy company for viewers, the chemistry isn’t quite there – owed to a combo of their script being largely shallow, face-value frat boy exchanges and the amateur acting.

The cast isn’t bad, and I think they’d excel in more grounded parts. Though they fail to capture the exuberant (and often annoying) energy we’d reasonably expect from three guys aware they have millions of viewers. The concept requires them to be larger than life, and though they play up to the camera well, they’re ultimately too subdued to pull off the material. I think they get better when the situation gets graver and they can be more naturalistic. On the other hand, Mitch Lemos is as over the top as they come in his turn as the corrupt sheriff that becomes the antagonist. In his best moments he’s physically and vocally imposing, but juxtaposed with others he’s also at times unintentionally funny. Part of the problem is how little we get to know him, beyond the sneering, the racial slurs and general nastiness that reduces him to a tired caricature. For what little time he’s onscreen, he’s more a concept than a man. He’s also done a disservice by how feeble the relatively few set-pieces are, with feature debut writer/ director Wohl not quite upping the ante during the third act. Strategic camera angles mean very little of the action takes place onscreen, and the clumsy staging means there’s little urgency when it should be food on the gas tense. It’s fun but never achieves suspense.

There are attempts to allude to bigger themes, as we jaunt through small-town USA. The sheriff’s overt racism recalls real-world examples of police brutality, even if it’s maybe too cartoony. There’s also an overly earnest attempt to frame the film we’re watching as a comment on audience voyeurism. But it’s misplaced, in a movie that’s neither extreme nor insightful enough to warrant the inclusion. Perhaps it’s less a comment on people watching horror than it is them watching others just like them doing whatever: a tendency for folks to overshare their lives online. I’m not sure I’m fond of this version either though, given the footage they capture would (if it were real) be absolutely huge. Whereas as a work of fiction, it’ll likely get forgotten with time. It’s a shame, as there’s a cool idea here and I enjoyed parts of the ride. Although, as per streaming sites, there’s just so many other things to watch these days.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

david.s.smith
About david.s.smith 283 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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