*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some 8 years before he wrote and directed "The Pass" (1998), which was about a man on the road to Reno who picks up a dangerous stranger, Kurt Voss co-wrote "Delusion" (1991), which also is about a man, Jim Metzler, on the road to Reno who picks up a dangerous passenger, Kyle Secor, accompanied by Jennifer Rubin.
Both movies are neo-noirs, but the characters and stories are very different, needless to say. I think "Delusion" is the better movie and that the IMDb rating of 6.2 is about right. This means the movie is a decent enough but more or less average picture. I realize that the existing IMDb reviews tend either to hail it as a masterpiece or see it as a complete dud. Most average movies like this one are reasonably good and reasonably entertaining. Most have some positives and some negatives, which is why they are average. That's how I see "Delusion". This is also why reviews sometimes go to extremes of love and hate. Viewers place different subjective weights on the better done things in the picture and the faults.
"Delusion" has clear neo-noir elements. Hit-man Kyle Secor plays a character who causes extreme peril to Jim Metzler, whom he waylays, and to Jerry Orbach, who got him into the business. All the main characters are morally ambiguous; the hero Metzler has embezzled company funds when his unit has been dissolved via a buyout. Violence is central to the plot, as is the stolen money that Metzler's carrying to Reno hidden in the trunk of his Volvo. Rubin is not violence-prone and even helps Metzler escape execution, but she fully cooperates with Secor in fooling Metzler into helping and trusting them after their car crashes. She's not that much of a femme fatale. She attempts to block herself out from witnessing Secor's violence.
This movie has strong desert visuals that reinforce the feelings of isolation and helplessness experienced by Metzler. He's really cut off from civilization, and a line of dialog reinforces this when he's forced onto a dirt road. Even during the closing sequence at a Death Valley motel, absolutely no one else is to be seen even when gunshots are sounded. The feeling of man's hostility matching that of an impassive and uncaring Nature is what is sometimes called "existential", as in the very sparse desert western with Jack Nicholson titled "The Shooting" (1966). In this movie, it is Secor who points out that the desert has no feelings and that its longevity surpasses any living human. He takes this as some kind of recognition of the absurd and a justification for his own criminal behavior.
The story depends critically on the initial crime of embezzlement that Metzler engages in. His pal at that time makes clear that he's crossed a line. It means that when a near-psychopath like Secor happens to cross his path, his options in getting police help are limited. By the end of the movie, it is clear that Metzler's life from that point on will be vastly different from what he imagined when he started his trip.
The movie's negatives include plot holes, mainly implausible behavior that's necessary to further the plot, a lack of fully translating the suspense opportunities presented by the story into suspenseful viewing, rather too much dropping of surrounding people from the story, and rather too much speechifying from Secor's obnoxious character with his whining way of talking. The actors do not quite live up to the character arcs presented by the screenplay. However, the main character played by Rubin and that of Orbach are a big positive for the film. Rubin is at the apex of a triangle with Secor and Metzler at the other two vertices.
The characters are not above some rather large shifts in behavior and loyalties as circumstances change. A number of interesting questions arise. Will Secor, who has shown an evident need for and weakness for Rubin, choose her or a big pile of money? After she rebuffs him and has shown a willingess to go her own way, it's pretty clear which way he'll go. Will Rubin, who has eschewed violence, stay with Secor? Will Rubin, who has shown great desire for the money, keep it and let the two men fight it out and perhaps kill each other? Will Metzler, who has found a way to safety, risk his life for money? Will he find his way to Rubin, with whom he has developed something of a relationship? Has Rubin found sexual satisfaction with Metzler that was absent with Secor?
What is the delusion to which the title refers? It refers to the idea that the human world, the world of human relationships, is an orderly (predictable) place.