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  Chase, The Human HighwayBuy this film here.
Year: 1994
Director: Adam Rifkin
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Kristy Swanson, Henry Rollins, Josh Mostel, Wayne Grace, Rocky Carroll, Miles Dougal, Ray Wise, Marshall Bell, Joey Sagal, Claudia Christian, Alex Morris, Marco Perella, Wirt Cain, Bree Walker, Natalia Nogulich, Flea, Anthony Kiedis
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller, Romance
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Hammond (Charlie Sheen) walks into a convenience store to pay for his fuel, and picks up a chocolate bar as an extra, noticing the only other person in the place aside from the clerk is a young woman (Kristy Swanson) browsing the magazines. The clerk is somewhat inept and taking his time to get Jack's change as the woman places her items for purchase on the counter, but then a couple of cops show up and he starts to grow antsy, especially when there's a call over their radio about a stolen car - precisely the car that is parked outside. And is the vehicle Jack pulled up in. The cops twig this is the case, but he panics and grabs the woman, pressing the bar into her back to pretend he has a gun; he may not have one of those, but he does have a hostage now...

If The Chase is recalled for anything these days it was because of its apparent prediction of the O.J. Simpson highway pursuit for a few miles when the police wanted to arrest him on suspicion of murder, a prescient move on writer and director Adam Rifkin's part though not one that anyone could claim was on purpose. This was his try at the big time after making some low to medium budget efforts, but as it did not exactly set the world on fire, the Simpson incident showing up just a little too long after its release to be capitalised on, though it cannot have hurt the home video distribution, Rifkin retreated into directing more obscure works, KISS tribute flick Detroit Rock City apart, for the rest of his career.

That said, he was a sought-after screenwriter. As if this shot at potential blockbuster glory had caused his impulses to aim for the crass, or at least the crassly commercial, The Chase was frowned upon by most, though it did pick up a number of interested parties who appreciated its light satire coupled with a heavy-duty premise. That was, the whole movie was more or less a chase sequence, on paper surely the essence of the action film boiled down to a perfect purity of purpose, though in practice you did run up against a surprisingly dense degree of dialogue, as there wasn't much else to do on a long car journey but chat, listen to music, or if you were a passenger, sleep, and there was little room for those last two options here.

Jack takes his hostage's fancy red car after managing to pick up the cops' guns, and the chase is on, initially thanks to the patrolmen Henry Rollins and Josh Mostel who take the call to take care of him. In an indication of where Rifkin's media targets lay, there's a pair of TV journalists in the back seat filming all this on a video camera and keeping their subjects talking in a self-aggrandising manner, waxing lyrical about their jobs and how they see themselves, as if the mere presence of a TV camera makes anyone its captures into a star, if only for the duration of time they are on the screen. We've all seen those outside broadcasts where the reporter has a bunch of diddies waving and pulling faces behind them, and here was a distillation of that impulse, albeit with a wariness of how infectious the idea that celebrity for all was becoming.

But isn't Jack a criminal? Not exactly, as he has in one of those dialogues an explanation for why the law are after him: his neighbour made up a story that he was a ne'erdowell who had committed armed robberies while dressed as a clown, and the police believed her, so he has been arrested and charged for crimes he never carried out, though rather than try to clear his name, he simply wants to get as far away from his pursuers as possible: to Mexico. His hostage turned out to be Natalie Voss, whose father is "the Donald Trump of California", offering a little retrospective lampooning as Ray Wise played him like a perpetually angry ball of intolerance with a trophy wife (Claudia Christian) to replace his previous one (Natalia Nogulich), Natalie's mother, who has a toy boy. You can see the level of send up we were operating on, broad impressions basically, with the privileged, either by bank account or by law, the targets as Jack becomes a sort of Robin Hood figure, only without the messing about with giving to the poor after stealing from the rich. There were stunts, so predictably cars and trucks tumbled and exploded, but mostly this was a gabfest, a shade obvious but positively subtle compared to what was to happen in the decades afterwards. Music by Richard Gibbs.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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