It’s likely that a lot of people might see this movie as kind of underwhelming considering that Thomas Ian Nicholas, who plays Ethan in this slightly chilling and realistic thriller, is likely remembered more for the American Pie movies than anything else. Seeing him as a rideshare driver that’s a former gang banger and is now trying to live a clean life in order to set an example for his sister is a different look entirely. The fact is that he doesn’t come off as a tough guy so much as he comes off as a guy that’s simply trying to do what he can for his younger sister when it comes to surviving, and in some ways, this works since it does paint a picture of quiet desperation with an aura of anger and resentment simmering just beneath the surface. But one thing that’s evident is the fact that Thomas’ wide-eyed looks that come when he’s scared or angry do little more than make him look like a psychopath on the edge rather than someone that’s experiencing loss or extreme anger.
In many other ways, his acting is sound and it’s fair to say that he comes off as a lot of us would when put into the situation he has to face at one point in the movie. His sister, Mia, played by Kelly Arjen, is what some might call a typical teenager, she doesn’t want to listen, she argues, she’s temperamental, and she rebels against the authority that her older brother tries and fails to assert most times. But the fact is that Mia has fallen into debt with a local drug dealer, the same individual that Ethan gives a ride to earlier in the movie. This character, Kaden, played by Mickey Rourke, comes off as shady and a little dangerous, but only in a peripheral manner since it’s eventually revealed that Kaden is dying of cancer, and doesn’t have long to live. Therefore, closing up old deals, settling debts, and being a generally lackadaisical villain is how Kaden is best described since his henchman, Jake is a little more of a threat considering that he’s far less chill and a lot more capable of flying off the handle.
When Kaden calls in an old debt that involves Mia and her boyfriend Lars, Ethan is in a meeting with a therapist that is likely court-ordered to deal with his anger issues, and as such doesn’t get to check his phone. This turns out to be unfortunate since Mia is kidnapped and killed with a massive overdose, as two detectives contact Ethan at his home to identify her body. This is when Ethan might have gone off the deep end since during a couple of flashbacks it’s seen that his mother, who was also dying of cancer, asked Ethan to watch over Mia. Instead of going completely nuts all at once, Ethan accepts a job with Kaden, but soon enough decides to go postal, killing two of Kaden’s loyal junkies, finding that they had another woman, one of Mia’s friends, tied up in their apartment. After freeing her, Ethan goes to the warehouse where he finds Mia’s backpack, along with many other individuals that are working for Kaden and Jake. He proceeds to beat them all to death with a tire iron as he goes from room to room, where he finds the sister of the woman he rescued.
Unfortunately, this woman is beaten to death before Ethan can get her to safety, and he tells the woman he rescued to get out of his car and simply walk away. The reason he does this is hard to say, but it could be that he doesn’t want her around, or he doesn’t want to involve her in what he’s about to do next. Eventually, Ethan finds out that Kaden and Jake are calling a debt owed by Chloe, a neighbor woman he’s become close to, and after killing Jake, Ethan runs to Chloe to tell her that Kaden is coming. Kaden chases them to the top of a building shortly after, where Ethan delivers a single shot that kills the man, allowing him to die in a much more fitting manner than his cancer might have.
There were brief moments in this movie when it felt as though it was ramping up to something great, but more than once it felt as though something was reigning it in, as things never went from being more than a little heated and then right back to being tepid. While it didn’t make for a horrible movie, it made for something that felt as though it didn’t deliver the final payoff that a lot of people might have been waiting for. But in a story that’s a lot more realistic than many that have come along in the past several years, it can be said that Adverse delivered a story that could belong to just about anyone.