Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Film Round-Up #20

I recently had the opportunity to see an old favourite film of mine for the first time in lord only knows how many years. It was still splendid, I'm happy to say, but it also gave me the idea to seek out what might hopefully be some similarly entertaining films of the same type - i.e. road-based dramas/thrillers - for my latest film round-up. My selections included another old favourite I'd almost forgotten about and I also squeezed in three examples I've never seen before. Check them out :)

Duel (1971)

Though most well known today as Steven Spielberg's first feature, for me Duel has always been the film I stumbled upon on TV when I was a kid that so thoroughly captivated me, and in the process, I suspect, caused my life-long love of films generally as well. It weighs in at a trim 89 minutes and the premise is just as slight - ordinary salesman guy is stalked by large mysterious truck across long, barren desert roads - but it's the atmosphere it builds and sense of mystery that makes it such a gripping film. The trucker, for example, is never seen, and the reason for him (or her, I guess!) terrorising the driver is never discovered, leaving us just as bemused and scared as he is. The choice of vehicles was great too. The driver doesn't have a monstrous muscle car that could easily outrun the truck, and the truck itself is suitably intimidating. Dennis Weaver was also well cast in the central (and almost only) role of the mild-mannered driver slowly being driven crazy by the deranged trucker. It loses none of its impact watching it again today either which is high praise in itself. Still one of the best road-rage movies around... 9/10

Vanishing Point (1971)

I had only seen a small part of this one before, somehow, so it was one of the first titles I thought of for this feature. I knew it involved a high-speed chase across the US with the protagonist making use of the mighty (and now iconic, thanks mainly to this film) white Dodge Challenger but I didn't know why. It turned out, of course, that no one who has seen the film knows that either. All that's revealed is that Kowalski (Barry Newman) is delivering the car from Denver to San Francisco - his motives for continually aggravating and evading the various law enforcement authorities on the way remain a mystery, though his antics soon earn him an enthusiastic following thanks to the efforts of a blind radio DJ in Nevada. I guess it's meant as a 'free spirit refuses to conform to the shackles of the system' kind of film, but however it was intended, it's mighty entertaining - I'm pretty sure I had a permanent smile on my face for at least the first 30-odd minutes. It did seem to drag a little as it neared its famous ending but, even knowing the outcome in advance, it was still worth every minute to finally see this classic... 8/10

Convoy (1978)

Unlike my previous picks, I'd barely even heard of this one but it was recommended by a friend who made it sound decent enough. It was made during the CB radio craze of the mid-to-late-70's and focuses on three trucking buddies, Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson), Love Machine (Burt Young), and Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye), who earn the attention of the local sheriff (Ernest Borgnine) who is harassing them. Before long they have the whole police force after them, but are also gradually joined by dozens of other truckers sympathetic to their cause, ending up with a convoy over a mile long. It's a bit silly I suppose but it's also surprisingly enjoyable, thanks perhaps to the great cast (which also includes Ali MacGraw as Duck's love interest) as well as the the amusing CB chatter and more anti-establishment tomfoolery. It actually reminded me of Vanishing Point after a while (though with rather more protagonists involved, naturally) and even looks like heading for a similar conclusion, but thankfully goes its own way to a degree. Sadly it doesn't take advantage of the opportunity to actually say something or make some sort of profound point but it's pretty good fun for what it is... 7/10

The Chase (1994)

This is another one I happened to see on TV many years ago which stuck with me for some reason. It stars Charlie Sheen as Jack Hammond, a crim on the run in a stolen car who feels compelled to take a hostage and flee in her car when some cops recognise him as a 'gas' station. It turns out the hostage, Natalie (Kristy Swanson), is the spoiled daughter of a high profile millionaire industrialist which naturally means the fuzz are keen to end the situation as quickly and calmly as possible, but Jack, who is wrongfully-convicted of course, leads the police (and media, including a film crew making a Cops-style show) on a chase across California while his hostage sulks and complains next to him. As you might have guessed from the pic to the right here though, she does gradually warm to him! It's all very silly, rather predictable, and much more could've been done with the premise, but it's helped by a good helping of humour and an appealing cast (which also includes Henry Rollins, the lovely Claudia Christian, and Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Call it a guilty pleasure... 6/10

Joy Ride (2001)

This was another first time viewing for me which was chosen due to it supposedly being a kind of modern take on Duel. It stars Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, and Leelee Sobieski as a trio of friends on a cross-country (US again, obviously) road trip who manage to attract the wrath of a sadistic truck driver by using their car's CB radio to pretend to be a slutty girl looking to hook up with him (and then giggling as he gets stood up). The trucker, voiced by Ted Levine and known only by his CB handle of Rusty Nail, isn't the dumb redneck they apparently assume he is though, as he soon figures out who and where they are, first taunting and chasing them before forcing them to do stuff for his amusement. It does have shades of Duel then, and also reminded me of The Hitcher to a similar degree, but while it's not as good as either of those classics, it was still better than I had expected. The only cast member to shine really was Levine whose voice is perfect for the role of the trucker, but the others are decent enough too, and act sufficiently terrified and remorseful to make their self-inflicted ordeal a tense one with some great sequences. A surprisingly effective thriller... 7/10


  1. Boss
    You not only have fine taste in games
    But I see than you have even better taste in movies too

    1. Thanks man :) You may not agree when you see my next film round up though!