The casual rage of the antagonistic protagonist reflects a global weakening of the social fabric. Hans’s impatient disrespect for a slow driver crosses a line that, for Ed, represents a violation that must be dealt with. In this way, Ed reminds us of Dexter Morgan, everyone’s favorite serial killer, keeping the streets clear of those who would misbehave. Crijns deals with Hans as a reflector of the continuing deterioration of civility in society. This is timely, as emerging cultural mores color our reaction to Hans’ dismissive attitude toward Ed. We’re more attuned to abuse based on class disparity and toxic masculinity and less inclined now to shrug it off.
The performances in Tailgate are pitch-perfect. Spitzenberger delivers Hans as a character we know we should have sympathy for but instead find great fun, schadenfreude even, in seeing the results of his overheated self-importance. Willem de Wolf as Ed is primal, unmerciful, a force of nature incarnate. He’s the consequences of all bad actions we so yearn to see delivered to the wicked, or even more-than-usually annoying.
“…the audience [never] gets a moment to breathe.”
Dutch citizens cannot own or carry handguns. This would be a short film if it happened in, say, Texas. Ed would threaten the family, Hans would unload a clip in his surly old a*s, and they’d be at Grandma’s house in time for dinner. That wouldn’t necessarily be a better or worse film, just a lot shorter. Hans doesn’t try to find a weapon to defend himself. Being frustrated with horror film characters for making poor decisions is a time-honored tradition. Still, we also know that Jackie Chan could fend off the Crazy 88 with a luggage cart and a kitchen chair, so Hans’ incompetence is maddening. It also feels like karma, given how awful he behaves.
The suspense in Tailgate is cringe-inducing. Crijns keeps his foot on the gas for the entire runtime, artfully ensuring that neither the victims nor the audience ever gets a moment to breathe. Even with a premise we’ve seen before, this film delivers right up to the credits and beyond.
"…reflects a global weakening of the social fabric."