Metro Weekly

Jacob Elordi Gets Into Monkey Business in ‘He Went That Way’

The bland noir-ish thriller "He Went That Way" fumbles its intriguing premise and casting of "It" boy Jacob Elordi.

He Went That Way
He Went That Way: Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi

Despite a title that suggests a zany rom-com, He Went That Way actually aims its dainty pistol at simmering neo-noir territory, but the action fizzles rather than thrills.

Starring Jacob Elordi as Bobby, a hitchhiking serial killer in the summer of 1964, and Zachary Quinto as Jim, the unassuming animal trainer who picks him up by the side of a road in Death Valley, the film does bear traces of latent, off-key zaniness, especially whenever co-star Spanky, a chimpanzee, enters the picture.

Portrayed by young actor Phoenix Notary in a chimp suit, and with some effects assistance, Spanky has plenty to do in this story, though he looks barely credible most of the time.

In fact, Elordi’s jeans-and-t-shirt-clad killer can barely believe his eyes when he first meets Spanky, riding as cargo in a cage, inside the back of Jim’s Chevy wagon. Seriously, Elordi acts as if Bobby’s never seen a chimpanzee before, not even in a Tarzan movie, let alone in the back of a Chevy. But Spanky’s not just cargo — he’s a famous TV star, who’s even been on The Ed Sullivan Show.


Also, he’s Jim’s partner in a struggling animal act, and supposedly, he’s a true friend to Jim. And that’s a lot of performance pressure to put on this uncanny-looking creature. To put it mildly, Spanky does not possess the charisma to hack it as the third wheel in this road show after the hitchhiker takes control of the trip. Bobby forces Jim to drive him all the way to, more or less, where they both need to go.

Plot holes abound, particularly where it pertains to keeping the killer and his captives on the road together. Jim has ample opportunity to try to save/free himself and Spanky — he can’t forget Spanky — but he shows no interest in escape. Rather, he’s more interested in getting to know Bobby, even after this mercurial stranger whom he likens to James Dean robs him at gunpoint.

This might be where the romance comes in, as Bobby and Jim, both ostensibly straight, develop the potential for an explicitly dom-sub same-sex attraction, but the movie doesn’t go there. Elordi’s and Quinto’s performances don’t go there. Jim’s fashionable, cologne-wearing primness, and the offscreen wife haranguing him over payphones throughout the movie, imply that he’d be receptive to being dominated by Bobby. Yet, seduction doesn’t appear to be Bobby’s motive.

He Went That Way
He Went That Way: Jacob Elordi, Spanky, and Zachary Quinto

Bobby talks about wanting to impress an ex, Bonnie, but essentially operates without motive. Or, at least, Elordi’s alternately brooding and explosive portrayal doesn’t present much intent behind the character’s smoky eyes or pleasure in his cruelty.

Flashbacks to the murders he’s committed on his cross-country trek add streaks of suspense and violence to an otherwise poky odyssey across the American Southwest, but don’t reveal more dimension to this character.

Based on true events in the life of killer Larry Ranes, as chronicled in Conrad Hilberry’s non-fiction book Luke Karamazov, He Went That Way doesn’t evoke true crime, just half-hearted fiction.

The feature directing debut of veteran cinematographer Jeff Darling (who, unfortunately, passed away last year), the film looks the part of atmospheric neo-noir — never more than when our odd trio pulls into a neon-lit motel off a backroad in New Mexico. But, heavy with dust-blown, desert shots of that Chevy driving off into the distance, the atmosphere is bone-dry rather than sizzling, which also could be said of the chemistry between the two leads.

Their supposedly combustible battle of wills doesn’t even produce a climax. Instead, the movie saves its final twist for Spanky.

He Went That Way (★★☆☆☆) is currently available through VOD on most platforms.

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