One Way (2022) Review
One Way was directed by Andrew Baird (Rebirth, Zone 414), written by Ben Conway (Looks Like Rain, Her Name Is), and stars Colson Baker (The Last Son, Midnight in the Switchgrass), Storm Reid (Sleight, Euphoria), Drea de Matteo (Shades of Blue, Joey), Meagan Holder (Pitch, Born Again Virgin), Travis Fimmel (Vikings, Harodim), Luis Da Silva Jr. (Kickboxer: Vengeance, The Baytown Outlaws), and Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th, The Following). It’s about a wounded criminal who boards a bus to get away from the scene of the crime and fix his wrongs.
The Plot: Conway starts with a lot of pieces tightly packed into a small space, with ambiguous positionings and destinations for the occupants of said space, but like a lot of indie efforts put out by the relatively inexperienced, stalls out before long.
Running away from the scene of an as of now unknown crime, Freddy (Baker) boards a bus to escape Vic (de Matteo) and calls on JJ (Da Silva), who assisted in what’s quickly revealed to be a thievery from Vic, and Christine (Holder), his ex-girlfriend. The script could’ve hidden this for a short while to retain intrigue, but the writer was eager to get to the nitty-gritty, which isn’t all that nitty or gritty. People on the bus are nonplussed about him, including Rachel (Reid), who pries in on Freddy’s situation, which is as generic as they come: having stolen from a mob boss only to find that getting away – or coming up with new ideas as a screenwriter – isn’t as easy as it seemed.
Baird wants One Way to be a winding story of relations and criminality, which he was able to accomplish, but without ever deviating from the usual deluge of subplots involving romantic woes and unwanted attention on Freddy’s side, which comes from Vic, stranger Will (Fimmel), and an unseen person named Smokie on Rachel’s. Each beat can be predicted and the side plots don’t add up to much, except for Freddy’s contact with Fred Sr. (Bacon), which occurs in his efforts to address his injury and make it out alive with stolen cash. One Way doesn’t do anything wrong in regard to its plot, it just doesn’t do enough to separate itself from a copious number of other films with similar bones.
The Characters: This feature is aspiring to connect the audience to the bus’s passengers and enlighten us with their plights, but Conway doesn’t make go beyond the second dimension, leaving most of the characters to be viewed as pawns in the plot instead of people in a pickle.
Freddy’s actions at first appear to be rooted in greed and spuriousness, but instead of taking a risky route, he’s quickly revealed to be a typical thief with a heart of gold. Giving the character some sturdiness, this decision didn’t come from nowhere – in fact – it came from his father, who put him in contact with Vic in the first place, which is a good shakeup from the norm. His motives are given without much gravitas; mixed in with calls to JJ are those to Christine, to whom he offhandedly mentions his daughter, which dampens the originality of the leading man.
Unfortunately, Rachel becomes a large part of One Way. Starting out by poking at the clearly hurt Freddy, she never becomes more than a method of further showing the tepid writing, as her underdeveloped relationship with Smokie becomes an interest of the criminal’s, even though he doesn’t have a reason for that to be the case. Obviously wanting her to be a daughter figure, the family dynamic that actually resonates is the father/son facet; as Fred Sr. Did a terrible job of parenting and still wants nothing to do with Junior, making the pleas from the son feel impactful instead of a cheap pull at the heartstrings.
Everyone else is just filler, as Vic is off-screen for a large part of One Way, her goons are unsurprisingly vicious, and JJ just serves as the livelier version of panic, instead of the wounded face. The movie’s characters aren’t special, but the Freds provide a spark.
The Thrills: Attempting to make a thriller out of a thin script and a tired main character didn’t pan out the way a movie with the same rough ideas could have. A bus may be a mobile location, but it’s a single location nonetheless, keeping One Way stuck in a rut.
Vic’s empire and associates are fine as a starting point, but Baird has a hard time keeping them in the mix and retaining the threat they posed, and indeed acted on, throughout One Way. While they do follow JJ and actively search for Freddy, they don’t act as much beyond intermittent hasslers aside from one bus stop where enforcers make an appearance.
What keeps One Way’s pulse above a flatline is the conversely decreasing blood pressure that the wounded Freddy has to deal with before he bleeds out. Because of his noble (but still boilerplate) goal to get the money to his young daughter, it’s easy to sympathize and hope he can hang on just a little longer to complete it. Some suitably desperate measures are taken, such as using a maxi-pad to stop the bleeding, but Baird still has to utilize shaky tricks like a hallucinated version of Freddy criticizing himself, but it works well enough until Fred Sr. Enters the picture in person.
Will’s presence is meant to add some more immediate tension since he’s an undercover social worker watching Rachel and happens to suspect Freddy of being up to no good, but it just feels out of place. Most of his interjections come across as annoying filler, much like Rachel’s own appearances. This never tanks the movie, but One Way only has one source of excitement when it needed more to keep up the momentum.
The Technics: With limited means of holding interest, Baird has a few directorial decisions which assist where the script fails. Pitfalls are still littered throughout the production, as COVID era restrictions were still in place, but One Way makes it through – just barely.
Directorial choices keep the mood steadily declining from Freddy’s point of view. As the movie pushes forward and the bus drives onward, the main character’s vision blurs further and his speech slows down and softens in volume. Cinematographer Tobia Sempi (Apache Wife, Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter) sometimes goes overboard with the blurring and erratic visuals, but the effect works.
Adding to the look of the film is the palette, which is largely grey on the inside of the bus but peppered with bright spots that draw attention to themselves – all clearly by design. Sometimes these choices are purely surface level and work to show the bus’s movement, like the red and green lights pouring in through the windows, but the choice to give Freddy a head of pink hair and Rachel’s pastel-coloured headphones draw eyes to them easily. Though I suspect the pink hair may have been circumstantial, judging by Baker’s style.
A 96-minute runtime hurts One Way more than the director must’ve known, as Conway’s script is full of phone calls, phone calls, and more phone calls for much of its length. Better casting would’ve gone a long way here – though Baker gives a solid performance, most of the supporting cast (Reid, de Matteo, Da Silva, and Holder) aren’t good enough actors to carry their weight; Fimmel and Bacon bring their charms though.
Baird shows promise with One Way via some good choices behind the camera, as does Baker, who does well with thin material. The script, supporting cast, and location fail here, as the movie is too thin for its own good and the destination is as straightforward as the title.