Machine Gun Kelly takes the wheel in gripping crime drama ‘One Way’

IN CONCERT: Machine Gun Kelly performs at The Forum on July 13 in Inglewood, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images/TNS

Gripping and clever, although not entirely, “One Way” tells the story of a fugitive on the run, or I should say, on a bus, trying to get away from a gang from which he has stolen cash and cocaine.

When this crime drama starts, Freddy (Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly) and his two partners have already stolen the goods from Freddy’s lover and gang leader Vic (Drea De Matteo, “The Sopranos”). One of Freddy’s cohorts is already captured and is about to be killed. Another, a guy named JJ (Luis Da Silva Jr.), is in a car on the road following the bus and terrified. Freddy has a gun, the cash and coke. But he has been shot in the stomach, and he’s bleeding out.

Also on the bus is the no-nonsense driver (the talented Thomas Francis Murphy); an underage girl named Rachel (Storm Reid, TV’s “Euphoria”) texting with a man she’s supposed to meet named Smokie; a pregnant woman on her own; and a social worker named Will (Travis Fimmel). Also in the mix are Freddy’s estranged, criminal father Fred Sr. (Kevin Bacon), Freddy’s estranged ex-wife Christine (Meagan Holder), who is a nurse, and Freddy and Christine’s daughter Lily (Casie Baker, who is MGK’s real-life daughter).

In addition to its almost Shakespearean family ties (Freddy’s father was also Vic’s lover, making Freddy’s connection borderline incestuous), “One Way” pumps a hefty weight of metaphor, The bus ride is a symbol of Freddy’s life. How long before it might end at the Cairo, Georgia, bus station? People get on and get off. A ghostly figure appears to a hallucinating Freddy. Is he the Banquo of “One Way”?

Directed by Irishman and Roger Corman school of filmmaking graduate Andrew Baird and written by Irishman Ben Conway, both making their feature film debuts (Baird has another film awaiting release), “One Way” is steeped in morbid nihilism. Freddy cannot stop the bleeding. But that doesn’t stop him from getting to know Rachel after she asks to borrow one of his phones. She notices that he has two and assumes he is a gang banger. Will suspiciously intervenes to make sure Freddy isn’t trying to take advantage of the girl. The pregnant woman spies on the others. The bus driver might be a Southern-fried Charon ferrying his passengers to the underworld.

With his nose ring and bleached locks, Freddy might be a rock star. Freddy has a desperate plan to get JJ to drive him to a vet to get “stitched up.” Later, he plans to meet Christine in a parking lot and let her do it. In desperation, Freddy takes a few heavy snorts of coke.

In many ways, “One Way” is a modern-day reimagining of the masterful Carol Reed thriller “Odd Man Out” (1947) with James Mason as a wounded Belfast gunman on the run from the police and increasingly cornered. Both films have a powerful nightmarish element.

Baker, who has played leads twice before, is not yet a great actor. But he is a reasonably good one, and he has charisma and screen presence. In one of the film’s more Shakespearean twists, Freddy has a rare blood type and needs his father to donate his blood to survive.

As you might expect for a movie starring a musician, the music by British composer Raffertie (“I May Destroy You”) is a strong element. Also noteworthy are singles by Zachary Stephen Selwyn, including the suitably titled tune “New Suit for My Hangin’.”


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