Tailgate – 2019

Written and Directed by Lodewijk Crijns
Starring Jeroen Spitzenberger, Anniek Pheifer, Roosmarijin van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer, Willem de Wolf, Truus te Selle, Hubert Fermin

The conceit behind Tailgate, a Dutch film focusing on a road rager who is brought to the attention of a genuine psychopath, is that one never knows who might be intentionally driving really slow in the fast lane. That no one in Netherlands is allowed to own a gun for self defense puts at least some of this equation different from those who watch this film in America. Even still some of the elements of Tailgate would be horrifying in any country.

The story starts with a man (de Wolf) tracking down a cyclist and then, after knocking him off the road, he kills him using what looks to be pest control equipment. We don’t see what brought on this act, but we do see the cyclist frantically trying to apologize, while his pursuer informs him slowly and deliberately:

“The time for apologies is behind us.”

The movements of de Wolf’s Exterminator Ed character are methodical to an almost painful degree. Just like Michael Myers, it doesn’t matter how far you go, he will get to you eventually. Tension building at its finest, is brilliantly portrayed in the first act so that we get to understand each subsequent time it occurs.

The seeming protagonist of Tailgate, Hans (Spitzenberger) is your typical Type A personality dad in a house filled with females. The story is brilliantly constructed in the first half to show a tension between husband and wife (Pheifer). She is dragging her feet as they head to his parents house. He’s not all that thrilled at going either, but it irritates him further that she takes her time in getting to leave. Enter into this the innocence of their children and viewers who are married with children instantly have something with which they can relate.

As they drive towards a destination neither adult really wants to be, he is speeding to make up for time lost when they insinuate they’d be there. His mother, of course, had dinner ready to serve at that time. Diana, his wife, reminds him when he’s over the speed limit. Tensions raise further. Then we see the white van that ran down the cyclist earlier in the film hogging the fast lane.

We know what is happening. Hans does not. To him, this is just another idiot. He does what countless drivers might do in his place even without the added tension: he honks, then gestures after the van break checks him. Then he travels on.

Where this leads I will leave for the viewer. Suffice to say, many decisions after this point require the Hans to avoid common sense in order to get to the point where an apology is no longer necessary. The film loses important points there. Where it gains is in the deliberation of the antagonist and how Hans wife and kids react to everything.

The acting is great in Tailgate. de Wolf gets extra points for being so plain and so menacing at once. We literally could run into him anywhere.

Tailgate utlimately gives me reassurance that I made the right decision all those years ago to not fight with my wife over who gets to drive. Most women, whether on a bicycle, or a motored device, don’t get into road rage situations. They have no need to express themselves on the freeway. They live to be tense with their husbands about other stupid things, like whether or not they’re going to ge the kids to grandma and grandpa’s house on time.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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