Stream It Or Skip It: 'One Way' on Hulu, a Machine Gun Kelly Vehicle That Puts Him on a Bus, Bleeding to Death – Decider

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Colson Baker, best known as Machine Gun Kelly, pushes ever further forward with his acting career via One Way (now on Hulu), a low-budget, almost-single-location crime-thriller in which he plays a small-time criminal who spends the vast majority of the 90-minute movie slowly bleeding to death on a bus. Sounds positively SCINTILLATING, doesn’t it? MGK’s screen career highlights include playing Tommy Lee in The Dirt, being 10th-billed in Bird Box, meeting current squeeze Megan Fox while filming Midnight in the Switchgrass and co-directing and starring in stoner comedy Good Mourning – and maybe One Way, which has us wondering if he can withhold the temptation to quote Mr. Orange for the duration of the movie: I’M F—IN’ DYING HERE! So does he convincingly portray a desperate man in the midst of croaking from a good old-fashioned gut shot? Let’s find out.
The Gist: DREA DE MATTEO BLINKS IN SLOW MOTION, an action that is not insignificant. While her eyes ssssslloowwwwwwlyyyy open and shut and open again, Freddy (MGK) runs very very fast away from her. She plays Vic, a boss-ass gangster. She wants Freddy’s head to be dead. He just stole a load of cocaine and half a million bucks from her. She trusted him, and he committed an unforgivable act of betrayal. His full-panic scamper and slackjaw/stupid-haircut combo gives off some serious Spud from Trainspotting vibes. The cops are everywhere but he dodges them and makes it to the bus station and buys a ticket and boards. The bus driver (Thomas Francis Murphy) doesn’t seem to think twice that a sweaty and disheveled fella who all but screams I’M A PETTY CROOK ON THE RUN boards with suspicious carryon luggage and a limp and a nervous-and-shifty look has boarded the vehicle, but this is Florida, so one assumes roughly half of his passengers are like this.
Our intrepid driver also doesn’t notice that said passenger is bleeding all over his bus. Freddy reaches into his jacket and pulls out his hand and it’s covered with the red stuff. He took a bullet, and it’s still in there, poisoning his guts. He writhes and grimaces. He nearly passes out, too many times. Sometimes he hallucinates and sees himself, tall and strong and healthy and with hair neatly combed, encouraging himself to not give up on himself. He calls his skeevy partner JJ (Luis Da Silva) to race ahead to the next station to pick him up. He calls his ex/baby mama, Christina (Meagan Holder), an ER nurse who might be able to patch him up, and she hangs up on him because he’s a weasel, and also because, for some reason, she’s answering her phone at the same time she’s hurriedly wheeling some poor suffering patient down the corridor while other medical personnel shout 30 CCS OF (insert medication name here) STAT and other hospital cliches. Not a great time to field a call from an unknown number on a burner phone, Christina, sheesh.
Of course, Freddy isn’t the only passenger on the bus. Up there is a pregnant woman traveling alone. Back there, a couple of Black men who eye him suspiciously. In the row ahead is Rachel (Storm Reid), who doesn’t seem to notice Freddy’s moaning and bleeding and that his hands are all bloody and his phone is bloody when she asks if she can borrow his phone. Why? She wants to text the guy named “Smokie” she’s traveling to meet. And thus ignited is Freddy’s conscience: We see his estranged daughter in flashbacks, and Rachel surely reminds him of her. He senses that Rachel is younger than she says, and that she’s precariously close to falling into the clutches of a pervy predator. Meanwhile, things with JJ go south, so he scrolls through his contacts to “ASSHOLE” and calls his father (Kevin Bacon!) for help, and his old man is a real piece of work. Also meanwhile, another passenger boards, Will (Travis Fimmel), and he seems like a nice guy in his dork-brown shoes and beard, but we know better, don’t we? This is Florida, and nobody boards a nighttime liner drenched in persistently flickery and/or red lighting in the middle of a pounding rainstorm if their destination isn’t tribulation, tragedy or trouble.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: One Way is a wannabe blend of Reservoir Dogs and the Safdies’ we’re-here statement Good Time, with some of the wow-he’s-making-a-lot-of-phone-calls-isms of highly suspenseful all-talk/no-action drama Locke.
Performance Worth Watching: Nobody’s going to anoint MGK with an Oscar anytime soon, but he ain’t half bad here, especially once his character’s motivation for stealing the goods is revealed, and shows he isn’t a dead heart in a dead world.
Memorable Dialogue: Florida bus driver deserves a raise: “I deal with degenerates like you every f—in’ day!”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: He deals with degenerates like that every day, but apparently cares not that Freddy is leaving bloody handprints all over his bus. Call a cop or an ambulance, Mr. Bus Driver Man! There are times to shut up and mind your own business and there are times to meddle, and this is the time to meddle! Sure seems like a matter of life or death! But if he did, he’d get in the way of the plot, which contrives to deliver wicked-cruel twists and moments of great illogic, and he’d get in the way of the budget, which doesn’t want to add any unnecessary, non-nondescript locations to the relatively narrow parameters of the production.
But One Way works almost reasonably acceptably well within its slightly too-noticeable limitations, and please note the subdued enthusiasm of my tone. Director Andrew Baird compensates for the film’s direct-to-VOD modesties with an abundance of conspicuous lighting and shaky-cam closeups, giving it a quasi-artsiness that attempts to replicate the Safdie Bros.’ visual acumen via intensity, nerve-gnawing suspense and skeezy, dangerous late-night vibes. The film never reaches that goal thanks to the script, which is more talk than action, with blah dialogue, thin characters and a too-familiar crook-finds-his-conscience (even before he was bleeding to death!) arc.
So it’s not about nothing, necessarily, which is something, but is it enough? Not really, because MGK’s agonizing slow-death teeth-clenching and internal moral wrestling grows wearisome by the halfway point, even with Kevin Bacon turning up to turn over a big family-dysfunction rock and goose the scenario with a little handlebar-mustached nastiness. Nobody will accuse One Way of being more than a genre exercise with the occasional bit of convincing acting from MGK, but when the rubber hits the road, it just doesn’t deliver the goods in a viscerally or psychologically satisfying way.
Our Call: One Way is merely an OK vehicle for MGK. It has a moment or three, but ultimately you should just SKIP IT.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.
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