Director: Jonas Govaerts
Writer: Trent Haaga
Cast: Dimitri “Vegas” Thivaios, Jeoren Perceval, Frank Lammers, Mila Rooms, Jennifer Heylen
Producers: Dimitri “Vegas” Thivaios, Peter De Maegd, Tom Hameeuw, Lize Lefaible
Music: Adam Wiltzie
Cinematographer: Dries Delputte
Editor: Maarten Janssens
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 88mins
Year: 2022

What’s the story: Noah (Thivaios) finds himself racing through the streets of Antwerp to fix the fallout from a robbery that has gone very wrong.

What’s the verdict: Locke + Crank = H4Z4RD. Jonas Govaerts’ latest is a fuel-injected actioner, with brains behind the wheel as well as real power under the hood.

Low level hustler Noah, aka Hazard, has a busy day ahead of him. In his trusty souped-up Lexus he must take girlfriend (Heylen) to work and daughter Zita (Rooms) to school. He then plans to pick up his cousin Carlos (Perceval), fresh out of prison after a three year stretch, to cruise and catch up.

But, aspiring rapper and human trash fire Carlos has other ideas. Ideas involving Hitler-mustachioed ex-con Kluddes (Lammers) and a score that cannot possibly go wrong. When it inevitably goes wrong, Noah finds himself having to undo Carlos’ calamitous mess, or bad things will befall those closest to him. With only his wits and his trusted Lexus to see him through, Noah must navigate a particularly eventful day.

This plot could belong to any doomed film noir (or computer game). What makes H4Z4RD so memorable is that Govaerts, writer Trent Haaga, and the team play the movie as a madcap, 200mph nightmare comedy. All anchored by DJ and actor Thivaios as the increasingly incredulous driver. A man who seems to have angered the universe itself and discovers the universe wants payback. Hilarious support comes courtesy of Perceval, whose Carlos cannot think more than 10 minutes into the future, yet never seems overly affected by the chaos erupting because of him.

To reveal the numerous set-pieces crammed into the quick runtime would spoil the fun. But, new stories and announcements on the radio foreshadow some of the mayhem to come, while other mishaps crash with no warning. A nice running gag has a tiny crack in Noah’s windscreen grow larger as seemingly Antwerp’s entire population, from school kids to gangsters to perverts, want a go at trashing his motor.

All this is mounted with such aplomb, it is not until about halfway through H4Z4RD you realise the film has never stepped out the car. Imaginative camerawork and solid FX work, alongside clever staging of the action inside and outside the Lexus, leaves any risk of claustrophobia or visual monotony in the dust. A chase through a pedestrianised tunnel and a messy encounter with a disgruntled wild animal are but two highlights in a film whose sustained energy rivals Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. And is a better ride than Baby Driver. Oh, and characters turn into cartoons at one point (there is a reason why).

True, not every loose end is tied up, and the central MacGuffin is ultimately a story offramp the filmmakers decide to ignore. But when the ride is this much fun, complaints take a backseat.

Pop promo director Govaerts previous film was the folk horror film Cub. This sees him not just shift gear but change vehicles entirely. The result is a real crowd-pleaser, or as Carlos would say, “Everything is WiFi.”

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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