“Dash” is a unique and entertaining but uneven thrill ride that delivers more than expected but may not be the journey you’re hoping for.
With the dizzying amount of content that the streaming age has ushered in, it can become harder for a movie to stand out. In an attempt to mitigate this, the 2022 isolated road thriller Dash joins the likes of war epic 1917 and the dreadful haunted house antics of 2011’s Silent House (itself a remake of 2010’s La casa muda) in presenting the illusion of a feature-length, uninterrupted slice of action.
The results are middling but very watchable, in part thanks to an engaging lead performance and eye-catching visuals along the ride.
A sophomore directorial effort from Sean Perry (known mainly for shorts like 2018’s Honey I Blew Up the Basic Bitch) and starring relative newcomer Alexander Molina (who has portrayed such characters as “Party Boy” and “Dong Whoreleone”), Dash (available on VOD beginning November 29) is a single night study of driver Milly, an attractively flawed manchild with a crippling case of ED (emotional dependency).
Milly is a married guy with not one but two sidepieces, including a pregnant girlfriend (listed in his phone as ‘Potential Spamm’ with his own wife being assigned ‘My Favorite Hooker’).
These women do a great job of highlighting Milly’s uneasy relationship with intimacy, social media, and the destructive patterns or habits he hopes to change…like smoking cigarettes.
Driving through the streets of Los Angeles, Milly encounters a host of different personality types: an open relationship homosexual throuple, two ditzy clubbers, an off-duty cop, an out-of-town Nebraska couple, and an ex-junkie who all contribute to a night with mounting roadblocks for our cad of a protagonist who is assigned the dubious task of driving the story’s action.
Molina rises to this occasion and offers up an extremely energetic yet brooding charisma that is interesting enough to warrant enough audience investment before things start to go haywire.
With a child on the way, Milly enlists casual hook-up friend Kelli to supply him with some ‘smack’ to peddle to his customers, which he incorrectly believes is cocaine.
This mistake leads to one of his passengers buying the drug (which is actually heroin) and, almost immediately after administering it, beginning to seize.
The fun is only getting started, though, with Milly being forced to confront his lies and more cowardly insecurities (like his ironic inability to express himself… after working in a job that forces him to listen to others).
This heroin incident and the women in Milly’s rotation necessitate a ridiculously entertaining balancing act.
A large section of the film’s humor is derived from paying special attention to how actor Alex Molina’s face contorts into varying stages of panic, and hilarious incredulity, at the pressure placed on him as more and more of his sins come to light…all in real-time!
According to the film’s trivia, this is a legitimate one-take picture with zero cuts (not even a hidden cut).
This gimmick is both a blessing and a curse.
The immediate nature of a one-take film can provide a compelling reason for a watching experience that begs the viewer not to look away for even a second.
Molina’s frenzied performance and alluring presence add to this.
But the film can also test the patience of other viewers who might feel this 105-minute movie cruises at some points and sputters at others.
Viewers expecting pulpy thrill might be surprised or disappointed at developments that invite bittersweet catharsis for our troubled leading man, whom Molina permeates with an adorably erratic energy that is almost impossible not to sympathize with.
Tonally, the film is also a bit at odds with itself…with a late-stage development bringing unexpected catharsis to an otherwise slapstick and mad-dash film.
Presented in CinemaScope and with a banging soundtrack that includes classic tracks from Bobby Day and Billy Lee Riley, there is a clear affinity for loving genre display here with some genuine heart and social commentary thrown in for good measure.
(One of Milly’s more biting passengers comments is, “We live in Los Angeles; if you don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, you’re doing it wrong.”)
While this array of characters (including LA itself, dazzlingly reflected on Milly’s front windshield) feels real enough, ultimately, Dash is a glittering, frustrating, and neon-drenched mediation on parenthood, infidelity, and noxious masculinity that arrives at its destination a little too late.
Though Molina turns in a fine performance, too many detours are taken, and the uneven nature of the trip earns it a middle-of-the-road score.