How many times have you been triggered by an entitled assclown while driving and briefly wished savage revenge?

In fact, the scenario is so familiar that it’s become a staple for filmmakers, in greats like Duel, and more recently in Unhinged.

Unfortunately, Dutch thriller Tailgate is a bit too like the former films to be truly great. However, where this differs is in the avenger: an elderly Clint Eastwood ‘Walt Kowalski’ type crossed with Walter White, who swaps his pullover for a Hazmat suit, and arms himself with a poison spray gun. This protagonist doesn’t share a first name with Mr Disney, however, and is simply called Ed. The actor’s real name is more prepossessing: Willem de Wolf, and he is truly a great villain, played with menacing understatement.

The thriller starts rather confusingly, with a cyclist on the run, having abandoned his bike and his phone to his tormentor. Smashed into a ditch, he is dispatched in a rather amusing way by our anti-hero, while begging for his life. Ed gets to use his catchphrase: “The time for apologies is past us,” for the first time.

The second scene shifts in tone as we see a typical Dutch family, rushing around because they’re late to see the kids’ nan and grandpa. What follows will earn nods of recognition from those with young families, though may grate somewhat for those who are not familiar with these scenarios. The dad, Hans (played by Jeroen Spitzenburger) is a typical middle-class Chelsea-tractor-driving know-it-all, and I like how he’s not really played that sympathetically. His wife Diana (Anniek Pheifer) is the voice of reason, and later the calm to his storm; a loving wife and mother to their two girls.

Wound up by his wife’s procrastination, and his daughters’ squabbling, as well as an idiot in a Mercedes, he takes it out on a white van driver by speeding, then tailgating him and aggressively beeping his horn. So far so familiar, and this is where the film excels, in its attention to realistic detail. As the van driver slows down, Hans overtakes and pulls alongside, glaring at him.

Then he stops at a services for petrol, as does white van man. Except white van man isn’t whom Hans is expecting: an uneducated lout. This driver is tall, elderly, and educated, soft toned and calm. An altercation follows when the driver confronts Hans with his behaviour, and like the protagonist Rachel in Unhinged, he is unapologetic and stressed, even red-faced, rude, and aggressive. And just like in Unhinged, the psycho driver reasonably asks Hans to apologise, which nearly drives him to violence.

When they drive off, Hans, ego pinched, launches into a judgmental attack on the old guy, and tries to laugh it off, but his wife is, unsurprisingly, unimpressed by his show of machismo. And while Hans jokes, in the rearview mirror he sees psycho Ed following him and the smile freezes into a grimace…

So far so predictable, although the fast-paced rhythm never falters in this thrill-ride of a film.

Yes, there are cliches aplenty but what sets it apart is its realism, from the ordinary, recognisable family, to the chase scenes in every-day suburbia. I tend to switch off during slick action scenes but this was rooted in a realism that elevated the movie. The acting was also superb, especially from the two daughters, Milou (Roosmarijn van Der Hoek) and Robine (Liz Vergeer).

And while it tracks a familiar road, I liked the ending, for while not a twist as such, it does tie the action up.

Although there is no motivation, no character analysis, the rather amusingly named Bumperkleef is a true thriller, filled with short, sharp shocks and an original antagonist. You don’t need to concentrate yet, conversely, you find the time flies past (unlike certain recent films).

If you don’t take it too seriously, this is an entertaining way to spend an hour and 20 minutes – and you may well find yourself replacing expletives with a silent chuckle on your next car trip when the inevitable idiot crosses your path – and you briefly imagine a way to cut him up that maybe doesn’t involve fine motoring skills.

Bumperkleef (Tailgate) is released on digital HD on October 26.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Tailgate
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Rhian is a freelance journalist and editor living in London. A film fan for as long as she can remember, her tastes cover the entire spectrum of cinema.