“River Road” presents the viewer with arguably somewhat of a stale storyline but am I corrupted for having been around since the days of Woodstock? Drugs and musical fame and fortune shattered or altered negatively by drugs is nothing new in real life and in film. Gene Kruppa with Mary Jane. Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole with heroin. Hendrix, Joplin, Brian Jones, Elvis, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Prince etc. etc. Mamma Cass with a ham sandwich?
Matters took a twist with “Sid and Nancy” where poor Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols was introduced to heroin by Nancy Spungen not that he would have avoided it without her!
In “River Road” an up-and-coming Canadian musician Travis is fresh off a gruelling three-month tour with his band and he’s been snorting a heck of a lot of blow. So upon returning to Vancouver he decides a break is required so he goes to his aunt’s Delta British Columbia home in the woods to rejuvenate. His aunt is in Mexico for a sabbatical. It is going well as Travis exercises, meditates, downs smoothies and goes to the gym. He reads in the afternoon and works on lyrics He regularly goes to a lookout point and watches the sunset where he “meets” Zoe a cute American girl who is not so innocent as she looks. They fall for each other and in Spungen fashion she introduces Travis to smack. It’s a wonderful first-time trip and their relationship is just humming along. The heroin moves from casual and recreational to habitual. Both Travis and Zoe predicably get very raunchy looking and more dysfunctional. Anything new here? Their desire for smack and lack of funds is a dangerous and destructive combination.
But wait a twist I haven’t seen before in the downward spiral ( “Drugstore Cowboy” excepted) flavored movies is that Travis and Zoe pack a pistol and go on a “Bonny & Clyde” petty crime spree. How low can rock bottom go? Well with smack death! So what do these desperate people do? They rob their dealer Fresno (Steven Roberts). Fresno is an unforgettable character a product of Canadian filmmaking and great natural talent. Canadian film has grit and roughness and it shines with Roberts. He is a very bad man but one with morals and one with morals can become very angry (and amused) when those morals are breached. His brief performance is so compelling it fortifies the plotline if not bolstering it to a “must see” film. Slight memories of “City of Vultures II”. I would compare Roberts’s amazing performance in “River Road” to that of William S. Burroughs’s (Tom the Priest) in “Drugstore Cowboy”.
Then there is a sleazy all-around hood and music producer “Cash Dirty” (Sunee Dhaliwal) who is both terrifying and comedic. In fact he is a comedian off screen! And what a maniacal brief performance he gives. It is riveting and coupled with Roberts’s performance again I will say again this is a “must see” film.
Cody Kearsley as Travis and Lexi Redman as Zoe deliver the goods but Dhaliwal and Roberts deliver it with a big shiny ribbon.
Will “River Road” be a classic in Canadian film?
“River Road” will be available to stream on Apple TV on August 3, 2022 followed by Amazon and Google Play on August 12th.
Written and directed by Rob Willey.
You can watch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UyLVTfjRDs
RKS Film Rating 84/100.