Out of all the lame-ass Hollywood blockbusters that come and go in theaters (or not anymore) each year, you’d be hard pressed to find any with as much pure unfiltered imagination as Miguel Llansó’s Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway. I mean, the deliciously loopy title alone gives you a head’s up to the kind of creative delirium contained within, rolling off the tongue in a way that a banal moniker like Avengers: Endgame never will.
Llansó first made his mark with 2015’s Crumbs, an Ethiopian-set post-apocalyptic adventure that doubled as a Wim Wenders-esque melancholic road movie. Here, he ups the energy considerably, throwing together ‘70s Euro spy thrillers, virtual reality sci-fi, martial arts and a good sense of absurdist humor to create one of the headiest and wildest genre throwbacks in some time.
Crumbs’s leading man Daniel Tadesse plays pizza-loving CIA Agent Gagano, tasked with infiltrating the VR world PsychoBook to find and destroy a computer virus implanted by the Soviet Union that could threaten all of humanity. It is to be his “one final job”, so that he can retire and move away with his wife to start the kickboxing academy that she’s always dreamed of. But of course, things go terribly awry on the mission, with Gagano’s consciousness becoming trapped in PsychoBook while stuck in an irreversible coma in the real world. Travelling through different landscapes and encountering an array of out-there characters (including a villainess counterfeit Batman), Gagano tries to find a way back to reality and his loving wife, even though she may be having an affair with his partner.
Llansó runs amuck with the aesthetic tropes of the genres he’s paying tribute to, fashioning a retro-feeling world with each character dubbed into disembodied English. Don’t let these lo-fi techniques fool you, though. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway is an impressively ambitious project, with Llansó shooting in no less than four different countries – Ethiopia, Estonia, Latvia and his native Spain – to give the film a grand scope. He also slams together eye-catching visual styles with ease, switching between aspect ratios, integrating 8-bit video game imagery and using a hypnotically strange stop-motion style for some of the VR spy action sequences.
While some might consider the storytelling all-over-the-place, Llansó’s narrative refreshingly glides on its own gleeful wavelength, unafraid to take frequent leaps into the surreal. And following on from Crumbs, he continues to re-purpose pop culture iconography in irreverent new ways. Yet for all the wackiness on display, there’s a real heart beating beneath Jesus which is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face as the credits roll.
In a just world, this is the kind of escapist popcorn-flick fun that would be clogging up multiplex screens.
- Release Date: 6/2/2020