From "Taxi Driver" to "A Taste of Cherry" to "Collateral," there's a long cinematic tradition of films about cabbies at work. Writer-director-actor Thomas Torrey enters the fray with "Fare," a tense drama set almost entirely in the oppressively tight space of one mid-sized automobile.
Torrey's movie is nowhere near as great as its predecessors, but it's craftier than it initially seems, overcoming budgetary limitations by focusing on qualities that don't require a lot of money: a twisty plot, committed performances and lighting effects that prevent a limited location from becoming visually tiresome.
"Fare's" biggest flaw is that it's too invested in its hooky premise. Torrey plays a struggling real estate agent named Eric who's working part-time for an Uber-esque service when he unexpectedly picks up Patrick (J.R. Adduci), the man who's been having an affair with his wife (Katherine Drew). The trip turns into an inquisition as Eric grills his customer, pushing to understand how he failed as a husband.
Complications ensue, including an encounter on the road that Torrey stages and shoots superbly, generating ample suspense. And yet even at its most nail-biting — in the midst of life-or-death situations, no less — "Fare" keeps getting sidetracked by long, therapy-speak-laden conversations about Eric's marriage.
Forced character arc aside though, this is a tightly constructed and well acted indie with a few standout sequences. It's further proof that sometimes all a filmmaker needs is a cab and a camera.
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Playing: Opens Tuesday at Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Hermosa Beach; available now on VOD