“You shoulda let me out of the car when I asked you to, Bob. You see what happens when ya got bad manners?”
The Scoop: 1996 R. Directed by Matthew Bright and starring Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon.
Tagline: Her life is no fairy tale.
Summary Capsule: A not-so-smart teen accepts a ride from a not-so-friendly motorist on the way to Grandma’s. This isn’t gonna end well.
Al’s Rating: 5 out of 5 reasons to not get in a stranger’s car. JUST LIKE MOM TOLD YOU.
Al’s Review: Vanessa Lutz is not your average teenager. She’s pretty but trashy. She’s sixteen, illiterate, and living in a motel room with her tweeker mother and pedophile stepfather. She’s sweet (kind of) and loves her boyfriend, Chopper, but she also has a history of petty theft and lighting things on fire. Vanessa is the kind of girl who only stars in movies when they’re heartwarming stories about overcoming the odds and meeting your potential.
Freeway, unfortunately for her, is not one of those movies.
During one particularly bad afternoon, Vanessa’s mother is arrested for prostitution and her stepdad for parole violations, leaving her without a guardian and underage. Refusing to go to a foster home, Vanessa escapes a child service worker, steals her car, and heads off in her red leather jacket to Grandma’s House. Of course, this is her deceased father’s mother who doesn’t actually know she exists, but she doesn’t think it’ll be a problem.
Her car breaks down on the freeway and she is rescued by a passing motorist, Bob Wolverton. Bob is a social worker who confirms the car is dead and offers Vanessa both a ride to Grandma’s and a shoulder to cry on about her messed-up life. Of course, his two-day beard growth and Rapist Glasses mark him immediately as sketchy beyond description, but Vanessa doesn’t notice this and just counts herself lucky to have found someone so trustworthy and generous. Ha.
That’s all I really want to give away about the plot of Freeway. To say any more about it would just rob you of experiencing it for yourself. It’s a disturbing movie, but not in the way you’re used to. It doesn’t go for sleaze or gore, although there’s a bit of both. It instead disturbs you with it’s messed up characters and bizarre, upsetting situations. It exudes a wrongness that makes your skin prickle and, if I were to prepare you for it, the movie wouldn’t get a chance to work its twisted fingers on you.
Kiefer Sutherland is incredibly creepy as the sociopathic Bob. He has a leathery, slithery brain that ticks like a machine as he hunts the “garbage people,” but he masks his perversions with a nearly-normal exterior that keeps everyone fooled–the police, the newspapers, even his own wife. Bob is evil, but, like most things in this film, part of our revulsion comes from the fact that we recognize this evil. We’ve seen guys like Bob on the news. He’s a monster and just because he’s not wearing a hockey mask or invading your dreams doesn’t mean he won’t give you nightmares.
My real surprise, though, was Reese Witherspoon, who I usually poke fun at whenever she tries to put on grown-up clothes and do a serious role. In this case, I humbly shut my mouth. Her performance as poor, stupid, severely damaged Vanessa Lutz is astonishingly good. She combines youth and sex appeal with dangerous instability and it’s light years beyond anything else I’ve ever seen her do. Vanessa may be a victim in Freeway, but by the time it’s over, she might be just as terrifying as Bob is.
Being a Little Red Riding Hood story (I assume you caught that, right?), you’ve probably already figured out that Freeway comes to a head when everyone arrives at Grandma’s House. Just don’t let that fool you into thinking you know this movie. Trust me, you don’t. It’s surreal and too-real. A fractured fairy tale and a dark, uncomfortable chase film. Freeway is, I think, the kind of movie The Doom Generation tried to be and fell short. It’s whacked-out, messed up, and needs to be seen to be believed. If you can stomach it.
- A Tex Avery Little Red Riding Hood cartoon is playing on TV before the ‘I-9 Murderer’ press conference interrupts it.
- The child service worker Vanessa dupes is Berta from Two and Half Men.
- Vanessa has a great school photo.
- Rhonda, the lesbian paint-huffer, is played by a young Brittany Murphy.
Vanessa: Do you wanna get shot a whole buncha times?
Vanessa: You had your turn to speak! I think its only fair to get my two cents in. When a guy does that and hurts someone who never hurt them, it makes him a criminal first and a sick guy second. Its like being crooked takes second place. And Bob, you’re crooked, you’ve proved that to me tonight.
John: Why are you doing this?
Vanessa: ‘Cause I’m pissed off and the world owes me.
Vanessa: You shoulda let me out of the car when I asked you to, Bob. You see what happens when ya got bad manners?
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Natural Born Killers
- Hard Candy
- Pulp Fiction