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Shortcut (2021) review

By David Dent

Director Alessio Liguori’s follow up to 2019’s overwrought ‘In the Trap’ is a YA monster movie in all but rating (It secured an ‘R’ in the US because of language, and slightly less troubled the BBFC, who have given it a ‘15’ certificate).

Anyhow, a small group of English schoolkids are on a bus travelling across the Italian countryside (they’re the only passengers, which seems weird), the driver being avuncular Joe (American actor Terence Anderson). The kids include the usual stereotypes: bookish Queenie, or IQ to her friends (Molly Dew); hard nut but probably not really Reg (Zak Sutcliffe); pretty boy Nolan (Jack Kane); and fat kid Karl (Zander Emlano).

A blocked road forces the bus onto a side route, and vehicular failure forces them to stop, at which point escaped prisoner Pedro Minghella (David Keyes) bursts onto the scene and holds the bus occupants at gunpoint. But there’s a bigger threat out there: a large beast roams the tunnels of a nearby disused military facility, and after taking out both Joe and Pedro (the two adults) it looks like the kids are next!

As mentioned, apart from odd F-bomb and some mild gore, this is basically a movie aimed at teenagers; it’s bookended by some thoughts voiced by Nolan along the lines of “Little did we know about what was to come… and this is what we learned as a group,” which aims to give the story more heft than actually exists. There is the obligatory third reel ‘finding out’ sequences so beloved of YA targeted movies, which only serves to make the adults involved look like a bunch of bunglers; it’s the kids who know how to vanquish the beast!

Praise should be given for the practical effects rather than the CGI usually found in films like this, but that’s a rare positive in a movie which doesn’t make a lot of sense and, while well photographed, squanders its slim running time with faintly drawn characters and much WTFery. Not very good.

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