The Worst

By Larry Cohen | Drama
A woman leaves her luggage on the subway. Then a worker agrees to help -- for a price.

Ryan, distracted after a bad night and dealing with a dead phone, is riding a subway when she leaps off, not wanting to miss her stop. She leaves her luggage behind on the F train, but a subway station worker named Nick offers to help her retrieve it -- for a steep price.

A reluctant deal is struck, flinging Nick and Ryan together for a wild ride as they race to keep up with the train with Ryan's luggage. But it turns into an odyssey into more personal territory, as the tables turn and they witness one another at their most vulnerable points.

With its quick pace, set of obstacles and active, mobile camerawork, the first half of this short drama feels like a scrappy, personal take on an urban action-thriller, building up suspense on whether or not Ryan will catch up with her baggage. The dramatic situation is quickly and economically built up with storytelling elan, as are the characters, with Ryan being the out-of-it out-of-towner and Nick the grizzled city worker with suspect morals.

We're whizzing through the Brooklyn streets in a blaze of sarcasm and action, but the sharpness of the dialogue and specificity of performances show there's something more at work in the characters. The film's second half then shifts in this more character-centered direction, slowing down and becoming more introspective, with a more intimate visual approach. At first resentful and adversarial with one another, Ryan and Nick get a peek into one another's turmoil as they slow down, softening their initial impression of each other.

Viewers may recognize veteran actor Dean Winters from "Oz" and "30 Rock," and he takes advantage of his characteristic smart-aleck street-smart persona here to play an MTA worker on the make. But he effortlessly connects with actor Britt Lower (now seen on the critically acclaimed "Severance"), both revealing layers of tenderness and vulnerability. For a brief, fleeting moment, they are simply there for each other on a basic, human level -- just two human beings struggling in the world, meeting one another where they are at and offering comfort before going forward, as they must.

This sense of the canvas of humanity is the lingering impression at the end of "The Worst." It sets up the intersection of two lost people at their lowest points, as Ryan and Nick both coerce and blackmail one another into getting what they want. But then it offers another way to view the random collision of humanity, as they also offer one another some degree of comfort and even kindness. They go their separate ways, but in some way, their encounter gives one another hope. It restores Ryan's faith in the world, and other people, making a hostile, lonely world into one that can hold moments of good fortune and strange beauty amid the struggle.

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