“Spree,” which will be available on VOD and at drive-ins beginning Friday, Aug. 14, is a Generation Z take on “Man Bites Dog.”
Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery, “Stranger Things”) is a young man who drives for a rideshare company called Spree. His true passion however is “Kurt’s World,” an internet broadcast that he hopes will go viral someday. Kurt’s tricked his ride out with cameras aiming to capture content that will catapult him to Internet superstardom. Kurt will pull out all the stops in order to accrue fame and/or infamy up to and including murder.
This found footage feature mostly plays out as a series of vignettes focusing upon Kurt’s desperate interactions with his passengers – asking them to retweet or follow him. His passengers are a motley crew ranging from a white nationalist motivational speaker (Linas Phillips) to a bitchy real estate agent (Jessalyn Gilsig of Ryan Murphy’s “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee”) to a meathead giving off big time Tom Cruise in “Magnolia” vibes (John DeLuca, “Staten Island Summer”) to a trio of scenesters (reality television stars Mischa Barton, Lala Kent and Frankie Grande – big bro of Ariana) to DJs both successful (Sunny Kim’s uNo) and washed-up (Kurt’s very own Dad, Kris, played by David Arquette, who’s great casting as he was playing burnouts even in his prime with flicks like “Scream” and “Never Been Kissed.”).
Kurt’s most notable fare is up-and-coming comedienne Jessie Adams (Indianapolis, Ind. native, Pike High School graduate and “Saturday Night Live” alumna Sasheer Zamata). Jessie has what Kurt wants – fame, notoriety, followers. He pimps “Kurt’s World” to her. She chastises him calling it, “Squirt’s World.” Jessie isn’t malicious – she simply has a low tolerance for bullshit. The only person actively watching and commenting on the proceedings initially is Bobby Basecamp (Joshua Ovalle), an influencer for whom Kurt once babysat.
“Spree” works best in its first half hour where it’s primarily a dark comedy before escalating further and further into horror. Keery is great alternating between pathetic and psychopathic. He’s genuinely funny throughout much of the flick and is worlds removed from his signature role of Steve Herrington.
Matching Keery in quality if not quantity is Zamata. She’s extremely likable as Jessie and I actively rooted for her success and survival. You see her grapple with fame and stay grounded spending time with Grandma Adams (Reatha Grey). The movie’s most woke moments come via Jessie. She sees the ills of social media (even if she profits from it) and keeps hangers-on like Miles Manderville (fellow “SNL” alum Kyle Mooney) at an arm’s length.
There’s an awful lot for Ukrainian co-writer/director Eugene Kotlyarenko to unbox with “Spree.” I’m not sure he’s entirely up to the task, but he comes damned close. Some will likely see the film as tasteless due to its similarities to the senseless violence perpetrated by Kalamazoo, Mich. Uber driver Jason Dalton in 2016 … and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. In spite of its inherent ickiness, “Spree” is undeniably darkly entertaining, features two really solid performances from Keery and Zamata and will hopefully make you think twice before seeking that next like, share or retweet. It also kinda feels like “Crank”-era Neveldine/Taylor riffing on Todd Phillips’ “Joker” … so there’s that.