Courtesy Saban Films

Remember in the late 90s and early 2000s, there was a slew of strange dark romantic comedies with sci-f/thriller twists? Titles such as Cecil B. Demented, A Life Less Ordinary, and Being John Malkovich Ah, yes. Being John Malkovich. Let’s put a pin in that. Regardless, CHARIOT is much in the same vein. It’s a slow and unsteady wander of a main protagonist who gets caught in unusual circumstances, featuring long, strange soliloquies from the weird strangers around him.

These types of movies can be really enjoyable. I loved the recent Mr. Limbo and the heart it had. But does CHARIOT measure up to these films of old? And if not, where does it break apart?

The plot of CHARIOT is unfortunately spoiled completely by the marketing team. Completely dead in its tracks. The trailer and even promo synopsis on numerous websites kill it. If you know the story, it won’t be a fun time, I assure you. It’s a slow, meandering burn to get from A to B and, if you already know the end, you’re just waiting around in frustration to meet that end goal.

That’s a shame because the actors are really trying their hardest to make it interesting and engaging. Poor Thomas Mann has to play the lovable loser with such pauses and awkward dialogue (some intentional and some not). Rosa Salazar is the manic pixie dream girl of yesteryears, but her acting is great for what it is and I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

And then we get to that pin – JOHN MALKOVICH, himself. And whoo boy. Yeah. When I see big-name actors sign on to smaller films, I always wonder, ‘What’s in it for them? What did they see in this that they would sign on? Money? Good script? Interesting plot? Something fun to do?’

But I think in the case of CHARIOT, we can all agree that it was the hair, right? That wild red wig that refuses to be any kind of normal. John Malkovich is not as unhinged as he could have been, but that ICP Ronald McDonald wig that he’s sporting sure is. As is the fish shirt he’s wearing in one scene.

The production design by Scott Daniel in CHARIOT is gorgeous. Gerald Chase Wilson does the set decoration and, honestly, is some of the best set design work I’ve seen in a while. While the cinematography from Senda Bonnet is interesting and engaging, the rest falls short. The marketing shot the film in the foot, sure, but even coming into CHARIOT not knowing what was going on, it becomes predictable and plays out flat. In the genre it’s adding to, it doesn’t expand all that much in the way of creativity or novelty.

While the premise is an interesting one, it never really fully actualizes and, unfortunately, CHARIOT never really takes off.

The thriller CHARIOT will be In Theaters, on Demand, and on Digital on April 15th.

J.M. Brannyk
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