TADFF XVI Review: In H4Z4RD, Dimitri ‘Vegas’ Thivaios Rides This Explosive, Rollicking Screen Debut Until The Wheels Fall Off
A blend of inspiration from the works of Stephen Spielberg, William Friedkin, Stephen King, and Mario Bava, action fans and festival goers have since gotten to take on H4Z4RD, the latest effort from Cub duo, director Jonas Govaerts and screenwriter Trent Haaga. For this, we are handed a feature debut acting performance by DJ and musician Dimitri “Vegas” Thivaios of Belgian-Greek DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, for a sprawling action comedy that takes you on a crazy, explosive journey throughout Antwerp about a wheelman struggling to keep his family together following a job gone awry.
Thus, H4Z4RD introduces us the story of Noah (Thiavos). He’s got a cool car, and dreams of a better life for his hot, large-hoop earring-wearing babymama Lea (Jennifer Heylen), and their beautiful mermaid-for-a-daughter, Zita (Mila Rooms). He also has a troublesome best friend named Carlos (Jeroen Perceval), fresh out of a three-year prison stay and clearly, and visibly, can’t wait to get back to his old habits just as soon as Noah picks him up from home. After dropping Zita off at school and promising Lea he’ll pick her up in the afternoon, Noah and Carlos venture out to connect with Carlos’ rather plebeian fellow former ex-con Kludde (Frank Lammers), with the promise of acquiring a cash stash from a rural, upscale home.
Things begin to worsen when the job gets botched, Kludde is fatally wounded and a suitcase in their possession turns out to be full of anything but what was intended, and it’s not long until the consequences finally catch up to them. A mysterious phone call results in Noah discovering his daughter has been taken from the very owners of the said suitcase, and with less than a day to return the suitcase to its rightful proprietress, it’s up to Noah and Carlos to sort out their increasing differences, and to barrel through an unforgiving city filled with lousy traffic, tough as nails bouncers, unrelenting cops, troublesome teens on bikes, a creepy mechaphile, and a killer rabid dog on the loose, if Noah has any chance of saving his daughter.
With a rigged stunt driver in charge of the driving, Thiviaos gets to focus more on lending a performance to the screen that guarantees some deserved praise. Perceval’s Carlos gets to exhibit more than plenty of oddities to provide the audience with something of a subjective approach; It’s as clear as day that the two have deviated in terms of their priorities and it’s only a matter of time until things reach a boiling point that will test their friendship. At the same time, you can imagine that their history together as friends is the modifier for determining what lies ahead; There’s a scene in the latter half of the film that’s cut and illustrated like a flashback to their clubbing heyday, tuned to a trance score, and a sky drenched in neon colors and lightning bolts.
What’s more, is that nearly the entire production is contained inside Noah’s car, so the viewer is practically given a passenger’s point of view of everything that’s going on in the film, whether it’s riding shotgun, the backseat, the trunk, the muffler, or cheekily enough, the car’s rearview camera. Quite a bit of this cinematography goes in hand in hand with the film’s more gory scenes, including the sight of blood splattering onto the rear window. As a result, what happens in moments away from the car is solely up to the imagination, and so whether or not all these will work is up to the viewer, as this particular method by Govaerts does away with so many of the usual ways in which high-speed car thrillers are shot.
Storywise, the film is brought to a formidable conclusion that settles things right before a closing credits scene that pops in and out a few times with some more bonus story moments. Things do feel a little truncated and shorthand when you think about it, but for a film that only stays in one place for most of its duration while still managing to achieve a lot of what it set out to, you can’t complain too much about H4Z4RD. Coupled with an even cheekier running joke featuring a commercial about a product that repairs damaged windshields, the film goes violent and full-throttle when it needs to, paired with a decent screen debut by Thivaios alongside Perceval in a rip-roaring, haphazard crime adventure that takes you on one hell of a trippy, rollicking action comedy thrill-ride with an ending that will hopefully pave the way for more ‘H4Z4RD’-dous times to come.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.