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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Spree’: Ride-share driver runs amok and streams the whole dang thing

An astute commenter on Facebook a few months back reminded me that April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Here in Ohio, that now means that using a phone while driving is a pull-overable offense.

Post-pandemic, because I’m one of those folks who has been re-indoctrinated into the experience of having a lengthy commute five days a week, I’ve gotta say I’ve seen some stuff. This goes beyond the woman touching up her make-up with the mirror down or the fellow using the electric shaver as 9 a.m. approaches and traffic amasses on the highway. 

The guy in the business suit eating chicken wings (not boneless, couldn’t really tell whether they were buffalo wings or not because I wasn’t sitting next to him) and the 100-plus-lb. canine hanging out in the front seat with its head out of the moonroof are two highlights that have made impressions on me, but hopefully did not do so on the median divider wall a few miles down Interstate 480 east. Can’t be sure they didn’t though, judging by the morning traffic reports just east of my exit, though.

Comedians since the invention of the automobile have made the very accurate observation about the driver’s superego: everyone who drives faster than you is crazy; everyone who drives slower than you in the lane you’re in is an impediment to society and shouldn’t be on the road (profanity levels may vary, depending on the performer). As an addendum, if you put in enough mileage, you will end up observing that there will be one particular make of automobile that develops into your own personal roadway commuting NEMESIS on a cyclical basis.

If you’re a Ford driver, it could be Chevy models that possess the drivers who torment you. Honda drivers could be tormented by Audis, VW drivers by Kias. Subarus by Mercedes. You just don’t know which it’ll be. Could be the same kind every day or vary by week. But it happens. Somebody’s out to get to you and they don’t even know it, cause they’re just driving.

Much like Mad Max versus Toecutter, Lord Humongous, Tina Turner or Immortan Joe, the drivers of these vehicles, in your presence, will have the greatest likelihood of displaying maniacal behavior that would make them ripe for recruitment by George Miller for a tenured position at his University for Post-Apocalyptic Driver Education out in the desert. There’s nothing you can do about it, except be aware of their presence and make sure you have good brakes. They’re likely great people if you encountered them anywhere BUT the road, but it’s like Big Steve King wrote about in Christine, a car can change a person.

And speaking of the joys of getting from Point A to Point B, Spree is a flick about Kurt (Joe Keery, aka ice-cream slinging Steve from Stranger Things), a guy who’s a veteran of the content wars who’s never broken through double-digits for followers or reactions and has just about lost hope after 10 years of chronicling “Kurt’s World” online. The attention he ordered, good or bad, never came in and he’s stuck in a huge pile of indifference.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Spree’: Ride-share driver runs amok and streams the whole dang thing 1
Kurt (Joe Keery) has his ride all set up for mood and night streaming as a Spree rideshare driver in “Spree.” (Photo courtesy IMDb.com)

Kurt’s latest attempt at a breakthrough project is #TheLesson. He’s got his car rigged with cameras that are going to stream everything as he does his gig work for this ride share company, Spree. When it gets dark, he’s got colored LED lights and his own self-made vapid techno music to keep the vibe up while spending hours picking up passengers, giving them poisoned water and then disposing of em while livestreaming the whole thing.

This is all while trying, at age 23, to seek validation and catch up in clout with Bobby Court, aka @BobbyBaseCamp, the kid he used to babysit who’s struck influencer gold, gets free stuff sent to him and stages videos that on their face seem heartwarming and a sign of good in the world when they’re really rotten ploys to get more clicks and eyeballs.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Spree’: Ride-share driver runs amok and streams the whole dang thing 2
Spree driver Kurt (Joe Keery) encounters comedian Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata) for a second time during Kurt’s online killing spree in “Spree.” (Photo courtesy IMDb.com)

And while it sort of seems like Kurt’s going to go on a crusade of semi-righteous vengeance — he offs a racist and a foul-mouthed, self-absorbed real estate agent and is about to kill a jerkola male chauvinist pig — he then meets someone with a bit more social media clout, up-and-coming comedian Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata) and decides to try to latch onto her coattails and all bets are off when it comes to accumulating that online following. So, how many deaths does it take for Kurt to get 50,000 followers? Oh, about a dozen…

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Spree’: Ride-share driver runs amok and streams the whole dang thing 3

Best Way to Cure an Embarrassing Encounter: Mario, Victim Numero Three-o, demands to Kurt that he take him somewhere so he can have sex immediately in order to blunt the memory of his social media roasting by Jessie.

Best Aim After Being Comatose: After seemingly dying while handling Kurt’s gun, DJ uNo startles back to life and shoots a responding police officer in the head. A chase ensues.

Best Killing Spree in a Spree: When Kurt traps two influencers in the moonroof of his car and they get their faces eaten by junkyard dogs and then uses a power drill to another one’s head.

Best Way to Validate Random Homicide: Kurt states his case to Bobby, while lamenting the lack of views he’s getting: “I’m literally out here live killing people … It’s not evil, it’s awesome content.”

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Spree’: Ride-share driver runs amok and streams the whole dang thing 4
Dad Kris (David Arquette), left, has to bum a ride from gig worker son Kurt (Joe Keery) to get to his DJ set in “Spree.” (Photo courtesy IMDb.com)

Best Cameo as a Failed Parental Unit: David Arquette shows up as Kris, Kurt’s dad, who has to bum rides to do an opening DJ set before a Korean DJ at a pretty sad pole dancing club.

Best Way to Show a Lack of Humanity: Kurt, again: “Do you see all these homeless people here? Zero social media presence. Pathetic.”

Two and a half stars. The flick has a few things to say about integrity and the two-dimensionality of things in this world of social media and how by being on there, everyone’s selling out just a little bit to get those little validation nuggets. Keery does play an absolute maniac, but the cover blurb saying the flick’s “American Psycho for the digital age” overstates the case just a little bit. There’s a nifty lack of depth that may or may not have been intentional, but when it comes to these times, the number of followers someone has online isn’t necessarily reflective of how many folks are really paying attention or who that person really is.

Check it out on Hulu, AppleTV, Amazon and elsewhere as well as on physical media.

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