Director: Ryan Andrew Hooper
Writer: Matt Redd (Screenplay)
Starring: Michael Smiley, Annes Elwy, Iwan Rheon, Paul Kaye, Gary Beadle, Steve Oram
Plot: A darkly-comic thriller about a lone toll-booth operator with a past that is fast catching up with him.
Tagline – Everybody pays.
Runtime: 1 Hour 23 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: The Toll starts as we head to a small Welsh village where a toll booth operator Toll (Smiley) finds the day filled with action, as he recounts the events of the day to the local friendly police officer Catrin (Elwy). Toll’s does secretly have an illegal operation going on with many of the locals including Dom (Rheon) and paramedic Cliff (Kaye) working for him.
Toll gets a chance meeting which will put his whole operation in trouble, when his former boss has finally located him after nearly 30-years looks to come and settle the score.
Thoughts on The Toll
Characters & Performances – Toll Booth is known by the locals as a quiet man, operating the quietest toll booth in Wales, secretly he has his own criminal operation going on, one which is going to start to catch up with him, leaving him needing to pull together all his connection to get out of the situation in the cleanest possible way, to return to his quiet life. Michael Smiley is the star of this film with his calm delivery to everything that is happening, never looking fazed by the events of the film like his character needs to be. Catrin is the local police captain that believes she knows everything that is happening in her small village, knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, just looking to keep everyone safe. Annes Elwy brings us the grounded good figure to the world that is filled with criminals. The supporting cast of Iwan Rheon, Paul Kaye and Gary Beadle are all great getting their moments to shine in their characters own way.
Story – The story here follows a man telling a police officer the events of the day, which for a small Welsh village, will be the biggest set of events they have ever faced. This story is told in a range of flashbacks, with each one getting a different connection to the last, this will tie together the story, with the multiple branches that will come together to tell the story of what happened to a lone toll booth operator as his past looks to catch up with him. The story is told in a way that shows how in control the lead character is to ever event happening, he knows the cause and effect of each incident. Having two calm characters either side of the law, shows us just how calm the area is and how both sides believe they are safely in control of the situation.
Themes – The Toll is a crime comedy that is pitch black in the comedy levels, with each scene showing us just how out of the comfort zone most of the characters are in this world except for Toll himself, using the comedy to let them believe they are in control, with him giving the eye-rolling motion to their actions. The film will give us plenty of different crime branches to operate down, keeping us guessing as to what the next job would be, with the small Welsh village being used as the location, showing us that even in the quietest villages be things can be going down.
Signature Entertainment presents The Toll on Digital Platforms 27th August
Final Thoughts – The Toll is a deliciously dark crime comedy with an outstanding lead performance from Michael Smiley.
Writer: Brett Rapkin (Screenplay) Richard Lally, Bill Lee (Book)
Starring: Josh Duhamel, W. Earl Brown, Ernie Hudson, Winter Ave Zoli, Carlos Leal, Stefan Rollins, Sterling K Brown
Plot: Story of former MLB pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee following his release by the Montreal Expos.
Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Slow Drama
Story: Spaceman starts as MLB pitcher Bill Spaceman Lee (Duhamel) sees his career disappear after a interview with a drug magazine, he gets axed by his team, with none of the other teams in the league wanting anything to do with him, because of his reputation.
Bill finds himself with one option, joining a senior team across the road from him, where he finds he love for baseball once again, even if it meant he could continue to spiral down a drug hellhole he has created for himself.
Thoughts on Spaceman
Characters – Bill Lee is a pitcher in the MLB, he is one of the best in the game, only his reputation for drug use hits a new low when he appears in High Time Magazine, he loses his job and must find a way to rebuild his career and life, as well as learning about his love for baseball, to get his life back together. We do meet the ex-wife who has got tired of trying to help him get back on his feet and must put their children first, other players from different stages of their careers and coaches that has supported him or want nothing to do with him.
Performances – Josh Duhamel is the best he has been in a leading role, going well outside of his comfort zone. The rest of the cast are fine without needing to do much through the film.
Story – The story here follows the late career of Bill Lee as he sees his career taken from him, with him desperately trying to get back into the game despite the reputation he has created for himself. This isn’t the most engaging story, if you don’t follow baseball, you won’t understand how the system works, Bill Lee isn’t the most likable character because of his own reckless decisions. The style the story unfolds is even more disappointing, as it ends up just going in a direction that shows him trying to play for laughs, rather than seeing how he fixes his life all together.
Comedy – The comedy is mostly coming from trying to poke fun at different generations of baseball players, as well as stoner jokes.
Settings – The film does take us around America as Bill tries to find a new team to play, it isn’t the easiest to figure out everywhere he has been attending.
Scene of the Movie – The rookie can’t handle the pitches.
Final Thoughts – This is a disappointing sports comedy that is trying to tell an important story, only to end up feeling forced more than anything else.
Overall: Poor comedy.