Shuttle Movie Review
The women in question, Mel (Peyton List) and Jules (Cameron Goodman) have just returned from a Caribbean holiday. It's dark, and they're getting drenched in a downpour. So, they take a van driver's (Tony Curran) offer to provide cheap rides home from the airport. There are only three other passengers -- Seth (James Snyder), a shaggy-haired horn dog, Matt (Dave Power), his sensible, chilled-out companion, and Andy (Cullen Douglas), a nervous milquetoast. No sooner have they set out that the driver, who's gruff and bullying without quite being menacing -- a common trap that sub-par thrillers often fall into - "gets lost" in a desolate stretch of the city, pulls out a gun, demands cash from his passengers, and begins his reign of terror.
Mel and Jules, being your typically plucky thriller-movie females, stage one unsuccessful attempt after another either to escape or signal for help. Seth and Matt do their part, leaving the dithering Andy to cower and mumble his rationale for cooperating with their kidnapper. Thusly, for a long stretch, Shuttle settles into that boring and repetitive pattern of wound-up risk and tension with no sense of character development or, more importantly, why any of this is happening. But when Anderson springs an interesting twist that reveals that the driver isn't working alone, that this kidnapping is more coordinated and laden with darker motives than simple robbery, Shuttle jolts to life -- briefly -- with purpose.
It's impossible to level fair criticism against Anderson's film without "spoiling" its surprise, such as it is, that the villains are in fact traffickers who want to sell Mel and Jules as sex slaves to foreign buyers. In crude terms, this is Lilya 4-Ever (among the most painfully lucid films in recent memory on the subject of human degradation) crossed with modern slasher fare like Hostel or Turistas -- where terrors are built on the premise of turning the white American oppressor into the oppressed. As Anderson's victims fiercely defend themselves, Shuttle resembles a weirdly feminist grindhouse flick; we wonder if Anderson is consciously dealing in some wry meta-irony - dealing in female exploitation tropes while, at the same time, decrying the exploitation at the heart of his story. No such thing.
At one point, Mel and Jules are made to strip, don high heels, and blasted with spotlights while they're appraised like cattle by a potential buyer. What's so infuriating about this scene is that, while you're watching it, similar scenes are been played out in desperate corners of the world, involving real-life, vulnerable women, being conned by men far more evil in their banal, amoral persuasiveness than Shuttle's cardboard idiots. Anderson exploits real-life suffering and exploitation for the purpose of shock and sensationalism; you don't want to believe it but there it is: Anderson has achieved a film of zero moral intelligence and responsibility, reducing actual evil into a circus of violence, mayhem, and titillation. As nails are being hammered into a crate, inside which Mel finds herself trapped, Anderson is also hammering the last nail into the coffin of his viewers' goodwill. This critic's anyway.
Next time try a cab.