Drunk Bus


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Drunk Bus
"Stories like this are not particularly thin on the ground, so how special this one feels to you will depend on how you personally connect with the characters."

Michael (Charlie Tahan) is stuck in a rut. He graduated four years ago but still hasn't done anything with his degree. His girlfriend left him nine months ago, feeling suffocated by his lack of ambition, and he has done nothing to move on with his life. It's not that he's happy with what he's got. He spends his evenings driving the college campus bus, taking drunk and frequently abusive students home. Even getting punched in the face by one of them doesn't provide him with the impetus for change. But meeting Pineapple - that might.

Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa) is a burly Samoan security guard who turns up on the bus one night and announces that he's been dispatched to look after Michael. He also makes a number of other announcements over the course of the film, not all of which - as Michael soon figures out - should be taken at face value. Pineapple is a chancer, a thief and a bit of a scoundrel, always with an appetite for adventure. He's determined to make Michael more fun, and the friendship that they form helps the awkward young driver to discover just how much life has to offer even in small town Ohio.

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Stories like this are not particularly thin on the ground, so how special this one feels to you will depend on how you personally connect with the characters. Tahan makes a likeable lead with enough depth to stay interesting despite the situation, and manages to hold viewer attention well alongside the much showier Tangaroa. The supporting characters are a bit hit and miss. The film would be better off without the crazy goth chick with the inexplicable sexual attraction to bland non-goth guys, as well as the lesbian couple who are just there to be leched at, but Dave Hill's stoner Devo fan is more successful than might be expected, with just enough of a mean streak to make the comedy work, whilst Martin Pfefferkorn makes a lot out of a character with only one (frequently repeated) line.

There's a lot of lowbrow humour, cheerfully delivered, but at its core this is a character-driven story. The central friendship isn't always easy, with Michael frequently pushed out of his comfort zone and, just as he begins to trust Pineapple, confronted with the possibility that his friend isn't everything he seemed to be. There's a balance to be struck between the overly cautious life he's been used to and the chaos of the Samoan's existence. It's in these difficult places that the film comes into its own and delivers something more substantial.

Shooting mostly at night and often within the cramped spaces of a real vehicle, John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke have set themselves some serious challenges for their first feature. By and large they acquit themselves well, and this modest little venture looks likely to give way to more ambitious projects in its turn.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2020
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A directionless, young campus bus driver and a punk rock, Samoan security guard named Pineapple form an unlikely friendship.

Director: John Carlucci, Brandon LaGanke

Writer: Chris Molinaro

Starring: Charlie Tahan, Pineapple Tangaroa, Kara Hayward, Zach Cherry, Dave Hill

Year: 2020

Country: US


SXSW 2020

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