Jonas Govaerts delivers controlled chaos in this blackly comedic, hyperactive heist thriller
Several days into a festival, you cry for films that will not only engage you but energize you. A viewing of H4Z4RD is tantamount to having a set of jumper cables hooked up to your chair. Showcasing a technical flex, H4Z4RD is a blackly comic heist thriller, that barrages the senses with thumping beats and fast, frenetic action.
The film’s hook is that it is entirely set in, and occasionally around a car. A heavily modified Lexus to be precise. The newly dipped and heavily customized vehicle is the prize and joy of Noah (Dimitri ‘Vegas’ Thivaios). He starts his day giving her a clean and polish, before zipping off across Antwerp to pick up his daughter and girlfriend, dropping them off at school and work in quick succession. This leaves Noah free to swing by and catchup with his old friend Carlos (Jeroen Perceval) who, freshly released from a 3-year stint in jail, has a new criminal enterprise that requires Noah’s help. They pick up fellow ex-con Kluddes (Frank Lammers), whose greased fingers and slovenly manner contrast with the pristine interior of Noah’s car and his cool manner. He directs them to a house in an upscale neighborhood where Noah’s remit is simple. Keep an eye out while they rob the place and be the driver. Preoccupied by a crack in his windscreen, the homeowners return and what should be a smooth heist goes south rapidly. A frantic escape in a shower of bullets leaves them with plenty of cleanup. But Noah’s day goes from bad to worse as he finds his daughter has been kidnapped by the people they robbed, and he has to race against time to reclaim the stolen merchandise, and reunite his crew, for a reckoning that he hopes will save his daughter.
From the moment of the heist, ever increasing amounts of shit keep hitting the fan. Garbage men, Russians, drag queens, a wolf on the loose, and even schoolchildren, all seem to have it in for Noah and his car. The script from Trent Haaga showcases the warped sensibility present in his previous efforts Deadgirl and Cheap Thrills. Absurdist action, hard hitting violence, and a warped sense of humor, including raps about sexual misdemeanors and wifi, Hitler-mustaches, and a scene which challenges Titane in terms of depicting affection for an automobile. These farcical interludes offer essential respite from the frantic and frenetic activity that propels the story along. Warp speed effects kick in as the car hurtles from problem A to problem B, accompanied by the ever present sounds of thumping electronic beats from the 2000s. A maelstrom of misery for Noah, imbued with a suitably brooding presence Dimitri ‘Vegas’ Thivaios. A man of few words, he deftly drives home how Noah knows his car and these streets, yet also manages to work in some tender touches to humanize him, and his plight. Perceval gleefully grates as a dim aspiring ‘rapper’ who provides much of the comic relief as he’s haplessly along for this wild ride.
The only thing more impressive than the chaos that unfolds onscreen, is the guiding hand of the man giving method to the madness, director Jonas Govaerts (Cub). The hook of shooting the film in and around the car is never overtly dangled in your face, instead, it’s a tool of immersion. Beyond this, Govaerts weaponizes even banal everyday moments and encounters to add an edge to the tension. A silent pause between friends, side glances from Russian doormen, stop lights and traffic congestion, even the site of a lolly pop in his daughter’s hand is shot as if it’s a hand grenade waiting to detonate and destroy his pristine car interior. H4Z4RD is a visceral, relentlessly chaotic experience, but also an indelible exercise in craft and control.