In a small town in Texas, an annual endurance contest in which contestants have to keep their hands on the body of a new pickup truck may offer entertainment to spectators and the chance of a lifetime to participants, but things spiral out of control.
If you’ve seen Hands On a Hard Body, you know how these contests work. German director Bastian Günther takes that idea and turns it into an examination of several people and their reasons for this test of will.
The player destined to win seems to be Kyle (Joe Cole), an unemployed local with a young wife and baby daughter. He seems obsessed to get the Nissan truck to the point that he begins to lose his sanity. There’s also a churchgoing woman named Ruthie (Lynne Ashe) who has her Bible and fellow worshippers on her side. They are amongst the twenty people gathered by Maria Parsons (Carrie Preston), the happy go lucky divorcee who has been doing this contest for years, but has never had one turn out like this.
The end of the film gets beyond dark, but it’s left to the viewer to wonder if it’s happening or the flashback shows what really happened. But real life is just as bleak. 24 year old Richard Vega threw a garbage can through the window of a K-Mart next door, walked to the sporting goods section and stole a shotgun. He was stopped by police before he could leave, at which point he shot himself. He had consumed six energy drinks over the past several hours and seemed like the most driven of all the people trying to win.
The idea of people doing anything for a prize while everyone watches won’t go away, particularly as the elite and lower castes grow further apart in America. The truck salespeople have already made it; they’re not giving an opportunity to the twenty people fighting against exhaustion to stand next to a truck. They’re giving us a way to stare and watch people fall to pieces.