Brian Metcalf’s Adverse is a low-budget urban thriller that’s unabashedly old-school, tailor-made for B-movie fans. Ethan (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is a young rideshare driver in Los Angeles trying to provide for himself and Mia (Kelly Arjen), his 16-year-old sister. Ethan has been Mia’s guardian ever since the death of their mother (Penelope Ann Miller). After Ethan loses control of his temper and the police are called, he is regularly forced to meet with Dr. Cruz (Lou Diamond Phillips). Even with his troubles, Ethan does his best to give Mia a life of stability, but Mia gets caught up in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend, Lars (Jake T. Austin), who ends up owing money to a loan shark. Expectedly, Mia and Lars are unable to pay back the loan with interest.
Before the consequences of nonpayment ensue, Ethan coincidentally meets the crime boss running the entire operation, but he has yet to recognize the significance; viewers, however, will catch on immediately, as an appealingly cryptic Mickey Rourke enters Ethan’s car as an infirm crime boss named Kaden. The drive is reasonably short and inconsequential, as Ethan and Kaden converse casually about their aspirations and careers.
“…Ethan does his best to give Mia a life of stability, but…[she] ends up owing money to a loan shark.”
Many would believe that $20,000 is not worth all the carnage, except Kaden, being a crime boss and all, demands respect and on-time payments. Any and all nonpaying customers must be dealt with accordingly. That being said, the story unfolds conveniently, with few surprises. Fortunately for Ethan, his brief interaction with Kaden earlier helps him infiltrate the operation to fulfill retribution for an unforgivable tragedy orchestrated by the kingpin. Ethan is employed as an on-call driver for Kaden’s goons, and he keeps his composure until he finds the right opportunity to get revenge on the people who harmed Mia.
Adverse is a formulaic, B-movie thriller that knowingly neglects originality, instead embracing the pleasure of pitting one desperate man against a crew of criminals who murdered someone he loved. And there is something strangely amusing about the vengeful protagonist wielding a tire iron against a slew of armed assailants. The most memorable action sequence concerns Ethan storming a grimy warehouse with the tire iron and going room from room, knocking men out; it is a ridiculously entertaining and nicely-shot action scene, chockful of self-awareness.
However, it is fairly difficult to view the circumstances, dour they may be, as palpably unnerving or devastating, primarily because of labored emotion and inflated performances. For example, Brian Metcalf and Chris Routhe play a couple of Kaden’s goons who are overly witless, undermining the aura of anxiety. Even so, the set-up remains relatively engrossing, and the jocular severity of the performances keeps things temptingly hammy.
"…a proudly campy thriller."