By Adam Ray Palmer
Our final review from the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival is another home-grown movie as we take a look at Ryan Andrew Hooper’s The Toll.
From a screenplay by Matt Redd; The Toll stars Michael Smiley, Paul Kaye, Iwan Rheon, Julian Glover and Gwyneth Keyworth.
The Toll follows a downbeat Brendan (Smiley), a miserable and sinister man who works solo shifts in the quietest toll booth in Wales. He does the most mundane job he can think of to hide from a criminal past where nobody would ever look. When he finally gets rumbled, word of his whereabouts gets out and his enemies head to Wales for revenge.
Meanwhile, what looks like a simple robbery that has taken place also drags in a local traffic cop to help investigate. Little does she know; she is biting off more than she can chew when she heads for the booth at exactly the wrong time.
For a first joint effort into the feature film world for Ryan Andrew Hooper (director) and Matt Redd (writer), The Toll is an accomplished piece. The darkly comic thriller carries an intriguing essence all the way through the 90-minute run time, which can easily be overdone when it comes to thrillers. With The Toll, it feels carefully put together and crafted with know-how; especially when it comes to the more tense scenes.
The pacing is so important in thrillers, and I think this is nailed on here. We do not dwell too long on the storylines that are on the periphery of the overarching narrative, but it’s a shame that the core of this movie is nothing overly original. Michael Smiley is brilliant casting as the ominous and skilled bruiser, anchoring his scenes with such understated charisma and presence, but at times still feeling underused somehow.
The supporting cast do their bit to move the plot along and create headaches for Brendan to process and get over. And there’s comedic relief along the way which to me feels very much like this could be a draft for a Ben Wheatley movie. There’s violence, killer lines and humorous takes – all pointing to the classic British thriller feel.
On the whole, Redd and Hooper deliver on what they wanted to achieve, but also create nothing miraculous. If I was to go to a DVD store and pick an ‘off-the-shelf’ British indie thriller, The Toll would be the perfect choice. There’s certainly enough to chew on here, but also having a swift run time to not get restless. It’s a decent addition to the indie crime catalogue.
Cineroom’s rating: 3.5 stars
The Toll will debut at the Glasgow Film Festival on 25th February and be released later in the year – certificate TBC