Alcohol, insults, and dredging up the past rarely mix well together, and they certainly don’t in the Canadian short film Big Wheels, director Andrew Simpson’s take on a Stephen King short story. This taut thriller is a nail-biter throughout thanks to nerve-wracking atmosphere and acting-clinic–level performances.
Bob (Andrew Bee) is a mechanic who is about to close up shop late at night. The very drunken duo of Rocky (Mark Rival) and Leo (Connor Dutchak) drive up, with Rocky demanding that Bob pass his car for inspection then and there. Rocky realizes who Bob is, and tells Leo about the mechanic’s past, when they were both high school students and a gruesome murder occurred.
The energy between Bee and Rival as their characters peel back ugly layers of the past is absolutely crackling, and the short is worth seeing just for their performances. Though both men are gifted with fine dialogue courtesy of screenwriter Devin Garabedian — who adapted the King short story “Big Wheels: A Tale of the Laundry Game” — their facial expressions during awkward moments and subtle turns of power dynamics are equally a blast to watch. Dutchak plays an almost passed-out drunk for much of his screen time, but gets to shine during a scene in which his character explains and shows a physical deformity caused by his work.
Simpson shows a strong eye for framing and Big Wheels boasts a super color palette, especially considering that it takes place in a garage at night. He builds tension marvelously and delivers a white-knuckler rich in suspense. The short is currently on the film festival circuit and well worth seeking out.(4 / 5)
Big Wheels screened as part of Twisted Dreams Film Festival, which ran online as a virtual event from June 4–13, 2021.