What Went Right With… Tailgate aka Bumperkleef (2019)?

An image of a pressure sprayer accompanying a review of Bumperkleef

Tailgate (also known as Bumperkleef) is an underrated Dutch thriller directed by Lodewijk Crijns and starring Jeroen Spitzenberger, Anniek Pheifer, Roosmarijn van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer, and Willem de Wolf. These names may mean nothing to you if you’re in, let’s say the U.K. or U.S. (for all I know they may not mean much in the Netherlands either) but the film’s appeal isn’t star-power, it’s the peril and thrills of which there’s lots. Tailgate is about an arrogant bloke named Hans, his wife and two daughters who are all late for a family gathering and so they speed down the motorway toward their destination. When confronted by a white van who is rigorously obeying the speed limit, our protagonist begins to tailgate the van driver; he repeatedly honks the horn and generally annoys him. Unbeknownst to everyone is that the man in the van is also a madman wielding a very unique weapon and by angering him we’re led on a road-based action-fest involving driving and life-lessons, face-to-face confrontations and a stainless steel pressure sprayer…

In a film like this, there’s a fine line between engaging and irritating and despite Hans being an all-round arsehole, Jeroen’s portrayal of said arsehole is verging on sympathetic. That being said, moronic decisions including confronting a possible psycho in a rest stop or driving through a highly-populated area instead of asking for help, is what makes Bumperkleef the kind of movie you’ll be shouting “WTF!” at. With a know-it-all arse as the lead however, it means the plot doesn’t just end with a red-faced apology as it may in real life. Instead, the utter idiocy of both parents means there’s non-stop action and non-stop stupidity in equal measures. The unknown poison which the white van man keeps in the back of his, err… white van, which creates blotches and hallucinations, makes this film quite distinctive if not a tad absurd. But, if you’re a fan of things like Duel and Road Kill you’ll probably enjoy this movie as much as me.

Given the short runtime of 86 minutes, there’s only a few issues with this film. Firstly, the ill grandad Joop is an unneeded subplot that occasionally bogs-down the ridiculous fun. A smaller issue is I have no idea whether doing 150 km/h on a 100 km/h road is particularly fast or not. I had to whip out my converter app only to realise 90mph on a 60mph road is quite tame by British standards, in fact you’ll regularly get people doing 100 or more in the fast lane. Of course, this isn’t Speed, it’s about tailgating someone. The best part of Tailgate is the villain played by Willem de Wolf. His stern personality and above-average height means he’s not someone to be fucked with. Like Greta (another underrated thriller) the antagonist is older than the protagonist/s but he’s a worthy, and in this case, formidable foe. When de Wolf’s character says “so is this where you begot him?” to the protagonist’s mother in her bedroom, it’s both a memorable moment and evidence that this film is intent on caricaturing road-rage to the most ridiculous conclusion possible.

After watching Bumperkleef, I now see Unhinged starring Russell Crowe (one of the many disappointing cinema releases from last year) as an Americanised and watered-down rip-off. Instead of coming across as an anti-road-rage public service announcement a la Unhinged, Bumperkleef is simply a road-set action-thriller with a home-invasion finale, closer in both content and tone to the aforementioned Duel than Crowe’s shitfest could ever dream of. No, this is not a perfect film and it’s nowhere near as good as Duel but the lack of a message and an abundance of thrills means you’ll be on the edge of your seat for almost the entire runtime (and when it’s finished you’ll most likely change your smartphone’s pattern screen lock back to a PIN).

I watched this flick on Sky Cinema on New Year’s and it was a surprisingly entertaining premiere (usually, the unknown, mid-week movies on Sky are rather lacklustre). I was surprised that I’d never heard of this film given that it was released in 2019 so after watching it and being thoroughly entertained, I went online to read about it, and shockingly, most articles were of a negative nature! Some reviews mention things like “toxic masculinity” which sounds daft when most of us know a few women to also be angry drivers shouting “bitch!” as they cut through traffic. Fake-woke critics aside, I can’t understand all the low review scores which makes this movie seem like it’s some run-of-the-mill car-wreck. It’s almost like every critic was watching Tailgate and Unhinged back-to-back whilst in a vehicle and after a massive motorway pile-up consisting of mainstream critics, Macbook Pros, and Priuses, they jumbled-up their reviews.

Bumper To Bumper.

Writing: 6/10

Directing: 7/10

Acting: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

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