Brenda Freeman is a good person.
She’s the type of person who always does the right thing, even to her own detriment. Now she’s trying to teach her kids, Kelly and Cam, to do the same.
But it’s difficult. Especially when her family keeps getting beaten down.
See, Brenda just lost her husband, Jake. He was a good person, too. Unfortunately, that mattered little when he got cancer and couldn’t afford chemotherapy.
Brenda found a way to pay for his medical treatments, but Jake still passed away. Afterward, Brenda found herself so far in debt that she couldn’t continue to make payments on their house.
So, Brenda, her two kids, and her younger brother (Reggie) leave California for Brenda’s mom’s house in Texas.
Their first day on the road, they wind up getting detoured through some shadier parts of Arizona. Kelly is harassed at a gas stop by two guys. When she blows them off, they chase after the family in their truck, trying to run Kelly’s crew off the road.
After escaping mostly unscathed, the family hunkers down in a motel for the night, hoping that tomorrow will be less eventful.
That hope is short-lived.
They’re awakened at 4:00 a.m. by the sound of a gunshot next door.
Brenda, an ER nurse, rushes to help whoever got shot, but she’s unable to save the victim. So after giving their statements to police, she and her family head out again, once again praying for fewer incidents.
Again, that prayer is short-lived.
Unbeknownst to Brenda, Reggie found a bag of money while helping her tend to the victim. And he took it, hoping to relieve some of his family’s financial stress.
That bag of money belongs to a notorious drug lord known as Mr. Cross. The cruel crime boss has killed more than 50 people already, and he’s certainly willing to do so again.
Now, Brenda has to find a way to get the money back to Mr. Cross before he takes action against her family.
But Mr. Cross doesn’t care that Brenda is a good person. He doesn’t care that she didn’t know about the money or that she’s willing to return it.
Because Mr. Cross is very, very bad person.
Brenda goes through a lot for her kids. Though they initially blame her for moving them to Texas, Reggie points out the sacrifices Brenda has made and tells them not to sass her. We see her set a good example, taking the high ground when dealing with racists and violent threats to her family. And she comforts her kids when they express sadness at their dad’s death or worries about their financial status.
And while I wouldn’t exactly condone some of the actions Brenda takes to protect her kids (though given the circumstances, these could be seen as necessary), she is to be commended for her fierce devotion to keeping her family safe at all costs—even when that cost is her own dignity or life.
Reggie, meanwhile, has been told his whole life that he is a screw-up. But he really tries to be a better role model for his niece and nephew. He protects them from danger when his sister can’t, offers them comfort about their dad and encourages them to make the world a better place.
Before starting their trip to Texas, Brenda asks Reggie and her kids to pray with her for a safe journey. The family visits a church and calls it “peaceful.” Throughout the film, Brenda also offers up prayers of sorts to Jake, hoping that his spirit will somehow keep their family safe. Reggie jokingly talks about the possibility of being kidnapped by a UFO. Reggie also believes that the bag of money is God-sent.
A couple has sex in the background of a party scene. Kelly makes out with a boy, but Brenda stops them when she spots the boy slipping his hand under Kelly’s shirt. We see a flashback to Brenda and Jake kissing. Some women wear revealing outfits.
Two men catcall Kelly at a gas station. When she blows them off, they chase after the family in their truck, smacking the windows of Brenda’s SUV, trying to run it off the road and even rear-ending it before driving off.
Further down the road, these same men block the SUV from passing. They force Brenda to apologize, stating that she endangered their lives, and threatening her with a gun.
Later, when her family is endangered (Mr. Cross kidnaps them), Brenda later pulls this same move against a woman who stole the bag of money from her. She winds up causing the woman to flip her vehicle. Then she bashes in a window with a baseball bat to retrieve the money. But before Brenda can walk away, other bad guys knock Brenda out with a bat.
When Brenda comes to, one of the men threatens to rape her, unbuckling his belt. Brenda headbutts the man, breaking his nose. Then she beats several of the men up using a variety of makeshift weapons before getting hold of a gun. She shoots a man in the leg to prove she means business.
Brenda also threatens to snap the neck of a woman. However, the woman’s male associates show little regard for her life, encouraging Brenda to do it since there will be “one less slut.” In another scene, Brenda worries a woman is being beaten by a man.
Other instances of violence include more dangerous car chases, gunfire exchanges and fistfights.
Mr. Cross and his wife laugh hysterically when they attack Brenda and her family. A man is temporarily blinded by bleach. Reggie gets stabbed with a pair of scissors. Kelly gets viciously bitten by a dog. A woman’s head is blown off by a shotgun. One man is shot point-blank in the head (and some of the blood splatters onto the camera lens). Another is shot in the neck. And one other is killed when he’s thrown from a vehicle in a car crash. (The car then catches fire from a flare gun and explodes.)
People pretend to fire guns during a reenactment. Brenda slaps her brother when he insults her deceased husband.
The f-word and s-word are each heard 16 times. God’s name is abused another 16 (once paired with “d–n”), and Christ’s name is abused once. We also hear multiple uses of “a–,” “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–mit,” “h—” and “p-ss.”
People exchange crude hand gestures.
Reggie smokes several marijuana joints at the beginning of the film, promising his sister that he will remain sober once they start their trip. He shares one of these joints with his teenage niece, noting that he probably shouldn’t.
Several people drink heavily at a party. After getting captured, Brenda attempts to cut herself free with a broken meth pipe. We hear about drug cartels. We hear a boy was given a shot of something to knock him unconscious. Several men spit out what appears to be chewing tobacco.
Race comes into play here a lot. When Kelly is harassed at a gas station and subsequently chased down by the offenders, her family tells her she shouldn’t have been rude considering they’re a minority traveling through rural Arizona. Then, the men who harassed her force Brenda to apologize for endangering their “white” lives.
In another scene, Reggie calls someone a “cracker.” He and Brenda both state that they don’t have to be criminals to be arrested since they are Black. Reggie sports a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. And when Brenda is nearly raped, her attacker makes a crude statement about being white.
We see Brenda struggle to pay for things throughout the film. And its heart-wrenching to watch as she embarrassedly tries multiple credit cards at a gas station. So we’re invited to be “understanding” when Reggie wanted to take the bag of money to begin with.
However, he should have listened to his big sister. It does matter where the money came from, she tells her family. [Spoiler Warning] And while Brenda holds this stance throughout the film, she eventually gives in and allows Reggie to keep some of the stolen money after they finally escape Mr. Cross for good.
People lie. Brenda’s kids are sometimes rude to her. Someone vomits. A man makes crude comments about stinking up a toilet. Reggie teaches his niece and nephew “Housebreaking 101.”
When is the right time to fight?
Before encountering Mr. Cross, Brenda probably would have said, “Never.”
Even after she lost her husband and her house, she always tried to do what was right. She put herself at risk to save a man suffering from a gunshot wound. She set aside her pride and apologized to a racist man whom she had not wronged in order to protect her family. She refused to use money that had been stolen even though her family was in great financial need.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair.
And despite her best attempts to keep her family safe, Brenda finds herself at the mercy of a drug lord, trying desperately to comply with his impossible demands.
“It’s us or them,” Reggie tells her. And Brenda agrees.
What follows is a particularly bloody series of car chases, gunfights and deaths. Brenda has to get her hands dirty to avoid being raped and killed. She has to take lives to protect those of her children. And in the end, it leaves her moral standing a bit in question.
Was she justified? Honestly, I’m not sure the answer matters here, because the film’s violence and language will make End of the Road a complete nonstarter for the majority of families.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.