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Road To Nowhere (1993)
Director: Michael J. Murphy

review by Paul Higson

Efficiently filmed and very much in the style of the director as it may be, Michael J. Murphy's 1993 film Road To Nowhere falls down on the script. Too reliant on too few characters, the first hour is spent moving to and fro between the two couples, one an American couple honeymooning on England's south coast, the other incestuous mentally disturbed siblings on the run from respective internments.

Peter Reid (James Reynard) has escaped from a high security prison five years into a 25 year sentence for killing his parents. A guard is throttled that he can reunite with his sister, Elise (Kate Payne) and the two go on the run, heading for the coast with the idea of buying passage across the Channel. There they hole up in an out-of-the-way cottage named 'Nowhere', overcoming an American couple, Byron (Timur Kocak) and Megan (Heather Raffo), renting the place on the final days of their honeymoon. There is the usual tying up, escaping, wounding, tying up again... too often the tack of mediocre American B-thrillers. A libidinous local boxer, Danny (Luke Massey) gets too close to Elise on her housekeeping trips into the town, too smug for his own good. Meanwhile at the cottage the wounded hostage is in danger of having his life ebb away, at least for as long as the plot deems such a peril necessary; he later seems to find the strength when need be.

The first hour is a crawl of uninspiring exposition and chase broken by the occasional nudge of banter or sliver of wit. It picks up for the last half hour. Their timing is not good. It's weekend, the banks are closed, the weather is worsening and as the days pass the couple should have missed their plane and the housekeeper is due to clean the place up for the next occupiers. Enough situations to keep it interesting, one would think. With half an hour to spare the tension does rise but it is too late to save the movie.

One of the chief problems with Road To Nowhere is the huge difference between the good and bad performances, or to be more precise, one terrible performance in particular, but we'll come to him soon enough.

James Reynard, from film to film with Murphy, has been provided with something new to do every time. Murphy gives his players these opportunities. This is Reynard's most exciting role granted him by Murphy, a full-blown psychopath. His character, Peter Reid, is a perverted and unpredictable bastard, convincingly rendered in bold actions and language. This is not some faceless psycho; neither is it some surface 'Mr Normal' successfully and unbelievably keeping hidden his twisted desires and practices against the odds. He blunders and snaps as Peter Reid would. Incarceration leaves him socio-economically inexperienced beyond his psychotic intolerance level. A man-child he is throughout on the verge of tantrum, temperamental and exploding at any hint that the smallest thing is not going his way. He is unreasonable. He is logical but selfish and errs on the side of cruelty. Apart from convincing his sister that incest is normal, quite an achievement given as to how well read she is.

Payne appears for the first time for Murphy, looking terribly young and perfectly pretty. She gives her all to the role, is child-like, pleasant, considerate and fearful. Her perturbing little whimper as she runs down the track away from the house, in the film's final scene, could have been trebly affecting in a better film.
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It is not that Timur Kocak and Heather Raffo are terrible actors it is simply that they have not been given remotely interesting characters. Neil Goulbourn puts in another sound appearance, as ever sadly remaindered in a supporting role, here the boatman, Freddy, but as ever, like the best British character actors memorable for his naturalism and realism. He plays this one with a soft delivery, a mellifluous regional inflection, crap jokes, supernatural calm and a touch underhandedness, though the latter is felt so out of economical necessity rather than any terrible character flaw. When I classify Goulbourn a character actor, I don't mean it in the initial definition of an actor excellent one or two roles there restricted but a rare breed that is able to dissolve into a wider range of roles (like Philip Seymour Hoffman or John Cater). Very probably the subtlest and best actor in the Murphy canon, it is a great pity that his talents weren't explored further on film and that he is no longer with us. Many of the cast are new to Murlin Films in 1993. Having seen through most of the precedent ten years with one film family, Goulbourn is the last of the on-screen old guard and a new family is being reared to see him through the next few films.

Then there is the boxer. Oh dear! Could there be a worse actor than Luke Massey in any of the Murlin productions? How did he come to be cast, on what grounds, on what possible determined merits? He intones every line wrongly and creates a baffling character that is predominantly expressed through the frequent raising and flailing of his arms. It is like some crap movie vampire flapping his cloak-wings. The accent he springs on us sounds like botched Jamaican. He has the body language of John Major, a positive statement accompanied by a shake of the head, a refutation associate to a nod. It doesn't matter how successful the film could have been in other quarters, his presence alone would act as an anchor to the bathetic depths of amateurism. The character was sickening enough without the bad acting. We are supposed to be shocked at his death. The script perhaps intending that he be arrogant but also stupid-heroically romantic, instead we are happy to see him slain. The female detectives are miscast, unconvincing in both their coiffeur and clothes. In fact none of the incident room detectives look the part. It looks like someone jumped a 1980s' school staff-room.

Murphy makes fine use of the smashing locations. IFM have surely made their money out of it, the film introduced on cable channel HVC in 1993. As usual, Murphy takes care of the technical aspects supremely well on the budget. The editing is superb, Murphy is super-conscious in his staging, a god to his environment. During a restaurant scene between Elise and Danny it cuts quickly and comfortably from one angle to the next throughout. The old skills are there. Nothing is lost. The film runs 91 minutes.
Road to Nowhere

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