THE TOLL gets 6.5/10 A price to pay

Directed by Ryan Andrew Hooper

Starring Michael Smiley, Annes Elwy, Iwan Rheon

As a rural police officer (Annes Elwy) arrives at an isolated toll booth at night, the lone operator (Michael Smiley) starts to unravel a complex tale, about a fugitive past, and a crime network buried in the heart of rural Wales.

How many times do you get to see a Welsh Neo-Noir Western? This might be your only chance, but The Toll certainly makes it an enjoyable experience. Despite the coastal breeze blowing in the lush green grass not being the first image to spring to mind when you think of a Western, it matches surprisingly well. This is a place on the edge of civilisation, a natural wilderness, that has found an odd group of outsiders making a living on the fringe.

Our “man with no name” (or in this case going by the nom de guerre of “Toll Booth”) certainly has more of the outlaw spirit than the first image of him banally doing his job would suggest, and Michael Smiley earns his salt in playing this character to the hilt. He gives a remarkably contained and paired back performance, but manages to convey menace with a coldly reptilian intelligence occasionally emerging.

Despite the strange genre mashup, there’s something remarkably familiar here. In it’s darkly humorous tone, this begins to look like a clone of the Coen brothers with a gaelic lilt. That may be a little unfair, but it’s impossible not to see the parallels, and some of their work must have been an inspiration. The Toll suffers a little by that comparison, not being as tight in the second act as the best of the Coen’s works, and the climax certainly shows the limitations of this film’s budget.

Taken on its own merits though, The Toll is a competent Welsh Noir, with a compelling central performance, and more than a bit of darkly comedic wit.


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