Judge David Johnson is fresh out of airport shuttle jokes.
Never ride with a stranger.
Facts of the Case
Two best friends have just returned from a girls' weekend in Mexico and they're tired and ready for home. They hop on an airport shuttle, joined by a couple of college guys and an antsy family man and head off into the night. It's not long before everyone on board realizes that there's something not right about their driver. Suddenly, things turn violent, and the passengers are at the mercy of a psycho, who won't flinch from punishing resistance by lopping off fingers or unleashing vicious knife slashes to the face. And that's just the start of the violent tomfoolery, which only increases as the night goes on.
This isn't a bad little thriller. The tension runs high throughout and there are a handful of satisfying plot twists tossed in. The ending's pretty messed up, too. Unfortunately, Shuttle doesn't quite make its trip flawlessly. It suffers from some plot hang-ups, the potholes that are found far too often in thrillers, and I have a feeling you, like me, will constantly be thinking "Why didn't they do this" or "That doesn't make any sense," right up until the end credits.
Which gives me the opportunity to address the great Cell Phone Problem plaguing our horror movies today. Everyone in real life has a mobile communication device. Everyone. So if you've got young, hip characters in a movie they of course are going to have cell phones. But if the plot calls for them to be put into a situation where a simple cell phone call will save them—which is how it goes down in this movie—how do you get around that in a believable way? In the case of Shuttle, you don't. See, when it becomes clear that the shuttle driver is starting to look like trouble one of the girls wisely decides to phone a cab but, alas, she doesn't have service. Never mind the fact that they're smack in the middle of a giant city. Plus there were three other 20-somethings; you're telling me not one of them had a phone with a better plan? I guess this qualifies as a nitpick, though I found it a severe suspension-of-disbelief breaker. Likewise was the inevitable victims-turn-the-tables-on-their-tormentor moment and they refuse to take the necessary action to put him down for good. I'm not saying I would morph into John McClane if I were put in that position, but I'm pretty sure I'd be able to at least shoot the murderous psycho in the balls.
I know these aren't unique storytelling flaws and I know it's not easy crafting a realistic thriller like Shuttle where all your action is taking place on one bus in one night, but that's what separates truly noteworthy efforts from almost-noteworthy-and-what-was-the-name-of-that-movie-again?
All that being said, Shuttle still has plenty going for it. The bad guy is really bad, so you're invested in whatever misfortune should befall him, and his motivation for taking his captives on the terror ride is indeed brutal. The protagonists rise slightly above mere cannon fodder, but just slightly; it's probably their lame decisions that irked me. While not a particularly graphic movie, when the mayhem hits Shuttle, it's sudden and surprising.
Magnolia's DVD is decent. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is sharp, though the colors look to have been purposefully washed out. Audio comes via a solid 5.1 surround mix. Extras: a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and audition sessions, which, I have to confess, always struck me as superfluous bonus feature but here you go.
It's not a bad piece of road tripping terror, but some missteps keep Shuttle from achieving luxury status.
Not guilty, but I expect a break on the fare.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.