Just like The Toll he oversees, Michael Smiley discovers that everybody has to pay for the sins of the past.
Calling local cop Catrin to his toll booth late one night, he spins her a web of intrigue as tangled as a Spaghetti western. One that is as darkly comic as the Coen Brothers and violent as a Tarantino flick.
Brendan is a man who is happy with the quiet life. Overseeing Wales’s least frequented toll booth, he sits and reads a book where “nothing much happens”. He has built a bubble to insulate him from the outside world but that bubble is about to burst.
The past he has run from returns to haunt him when an old associate accidentally stops by the toll booth. Setting off a chain of events that will eventually snowball into a Mexican (or should that be Welsh) standoff.
Instead of the Man With No Name, he is the man with no descernable backstory. When Catrin tries to dig a little deeper into his past with the locals, each has their own version of events. Ranging from the plot of The Shawshank Redemption to Star Wars.
Michael Smiley is always a welcome screen prescence. From making a hilarious first impression as Tyres in Spaced, he has gone on to stealing scenes and solid supporting roles in the likes of Free Fire, Kill List and Censor. It is great to see him in a leading role and director Ryan Andrew Hooper takes full advantage of this. The sharp and witty script by Matt Redd allows him to use his natural charm and humour whilst tapping into a steeliness under the surface.
The film draws on inspirations such as Tarantino and the Coens but thankfully it does not ape them to the point it becomes a carbon copy or poor imitation.
Hooper’s feature debut makes a strong impression and here, The Toll, is one definitely worth paying.
Director: Ryan Andrew Hooper
Stars: Michael Smiley, Annes Elwy, Iwan Rheon, Julian Glover
Runtime: 83 minutes