Think The Hitcher meets U-Turn via Wild At Heart and you're halfway to getting a handle on the cheerfully derivative American Perfekt. Writer/director Paul Chart has evidently tossed all his favourite movies into a blender and served up a delightfully gruesome mix, which has a very similar flavour to the Coen brothers' early output.
British-born Chart's road-raging debut certainly has a great pedigree. It's produced by Empire Strikes Back-helmer Irvin Kershner and stars both Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), along with old pros like Paul Sorvino and Louise Fletcher, plus sultry indie-starlet Fairuza Balk. That's one hell of a cast for a first effort, and this is one hell of a thriller, with a twisty-turny plot so tangled up that it'd be rotten to reveal too much.
Even if you've seen every film Chart pays homage to, you'll still never guess which way the story's going next. The escalating violence is both shocking and comical, the ending left annoyingly open and the method by which the cheeky plot explanations are casually withheld then conveniently turned arse-over-tit, makes Wild Things seem straightforward. There are some nerve-shredding set pieces, such as the early scene when Plummer climbs into the back of a station wagon to pinch some cash and another where Balk finds herself in a hangman's noose. These unnerving episodes move at a nightmarish pace, punctuated by well-timed shocks that'll catapult you out of your seat.
Top-notch performances all round also make American Perfekt a hard show for anyone to steal, although David Thewlis just about does as an English conman whose chirpy delivery of filthy cockney slang must have baffled American audiences. Typical really of a movie that's very funny, in-yer-face and quite insane.