The pervasive ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ meme from a few years ago captured something funny about the way video games and reality connect; the disconnect between the non-grammatical message and the pompous message made for a retro-gag that deservedly adorned T-shirt and dorm rooms posters alike. Mentioning it is probably a useful way in to writer/director Miguel Llanso’s completely bonkers sci-fi-comedy-drama that could just be the best film ever made about video games, especially if the competition is Gamer and Serenity. Or maybe it’s an absurdist action/comedy, or maybe is a rom-com with giant insects and Stalin …it’s hard to describe but here goes.
A co-production by Spain-Estonia-Ethiopia-Latvia and Romania, this is the story of two CIA agents who are co-opted into a complex VR style video game; we see a previous player removed, eyeless, from the testing area, so the stakes are presumably high. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) and Palmer Eldritch (Augustin Mateo) transform into Robert Redford and Richard Pryor within this virtual arena, where they complete video-game missions of the gravest importance. A climactic face-off against the villainous Stalin virus is on the cards, but an injury to the team changes the shape of the story.
Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway isn’t all about the VR; much of the film focuses on Gagano and his romantic relationship to his wife Malin (Gerda-Annette Allikas), who shares his dream of opening up both a pizza parlour and a kick-boxing school. The technology of their weird world is constantly engaging; the Macintosh Classics and floppy discs of the matrix-like VR studio are amusing enough, but there’s genuine wit in the way that the identities and weapons carried by the players can be cycled through, just like a video game. Except Llanso deliberately visualises all this is the tattiest way possible, leaning into the zero-budget production values, with terrible dubbing, cardboard masks and crude, yet charming ZX Spectrum graphics. And sweets, did we mention that the giant flies seem to bleed wrapped, Quality Street sweets?
Sure, Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway isn’t for everyone; take a look at the trailer before you plan your evening around it. If you dig Jodorowsky’s El Topo or The Holy Mountain, you’re probaly going to love it. But with such a wealth of originality, plus dynamic lead performances, plus some amusing chop-socky fight scenes, this is one of the most striking films of 2020 so far, and is already generating a cult following. And yes, Jesus Does Show You The Way To The Highway, but that’s about the only predictable thing that happens here.
At the time of writing, it’s a game-changing 99p on Arrow Video’s channel, and there’s a free 7 day subsciption offer too. Link below.