R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Robert Harmon
scr Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer
with Jim Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, Colm Feore, Gordon Currie, Andrea Roth, Paul Mota, Michael Stevens
release US 13.Feb.04, UK 2.Jul.04
New Line
04/Canada 1h21

On the road again: Faison and Caviezel

caviezel mitra
faison feore
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This revenge thriller feels like a B-movie from the 1980s--stylish and monosyllabic at the same time, with men who only speak through their frightening, revving cars. So it's hardly surprising that it comes from the guy who made the quintessential 1980s men-and-cars thriller The Hitcher.

The plot couldn't really be any simpler: Nice guy Rennie (Caviezel) watches in horror as his wife is run down by a mysterious driver named Fargo (Feore) in a blacked-out Cadillac. Five years later Rennie's still in a cat and mouse hunt that culminates when Fargo develops a fixation on a woman (Mitra) who Rennie can use as bait. But he'll have to cooperate with a traffic cop (Faison) to make it work.

Harmon captures the epic North American landscapes perfectly--expansive fields with distant mountains, all traversed by highways that are completely empty except for our duelling motorists. What brief dialog there is feels unnecessary, really. The contrived narrative is utterly straightforward (flashbacks notwithstanding), the characters simple and unsurprising, the set pieces visceral and illogical. We know exactly what the filmmakers are trying to do, and with the exception of the truly awful dialog, at least they do it efficiently--jolting us every now and then with something violent or unexpected.

The cast has very little to do. Caviezel is merely a bundle of grunting, righteous indignation. Feore is part man, part machine (think Darth Vader without the mask), melded to his car. Mitra is basically just a damsel in distress with a bit of extra spark. Faison is the standard over-his-head cop who finally discovers an untapped well of rage. But what Harmon's really interested in is the cars, and we get lots of whizzy driving, nutty stunts, incomprehensible crashes. By the time we reach the ending, we know there's never going to be much to this film at all, besides a big face-off with a predictable conclusion and a few standard "surprises" at the end. But even if it's nothing new, at least it takes us back to a time when we didn't ask much of our movies.

cert 18 themes, violence, language 24.Jun.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall