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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Freeway (1996)



Reviews and Comments

The story of the Little Red Riding Hood is radically updated to the modern world. Riding Hood is Vanessa Lutz, a punk kid who can barely read. Her father is a druggie on parole, and her mother is a prostitute. When her parents get arrested, she takes the car and heads for Grandma's, running into the Big Bad Wolf (in the form of a deranged serial killer) along the way. The film is seedy and profane, but it's not gratuitous -- these characters are the lowest of the low, and their speech and manner seem natural.

Up to a point, this is a promising movie. For the first half, I was taking the film on its own twisted terms, and, while not exactly liking it, admiring its skillful execution and morbid sense of humor. The acting is superb, as is its dialogue.

So what went so horribly wrong? Shortly after the scene where Vanessa gets arrested, she suddenly became a stranger to me. Before, I had a grasp on her character, even though I didn't identify with her. The latter half of the movie has her doing things that made me shake my head in wonder. A change in her occurred, and while we were told why, we weren't shown. I didn't buy it, and her character no longer seemed authentic. The characterization flaws don't stop with Vanessa, either -- another completely unbelievable character was one of the investigating officers, whose attitude makes no sense at all. One of Vanessa's inmates is similarly incomprehensible in her actions, and another one has little purpose. Finally, Brooke Shields has a small role whose conclusion is misplaced and irrelevant.

So believability of character was one gaping flaw. The second is on more of an emotional level. I left this movie feeling dirty. I didn't feel satisfied from my viewing experience -- just repulsed and distraught.

Many critics are fooled into praising Freeway because of the skill with which its purpose is fulfilled. What is all too often forgotten when evaluating a work of art is that there is a second question -- as much or more important -- that needs answering. Is its purpose worthwhile? A movie with a noble cause but poor execution is a bad movie, but often one that can be respected. A movie with a vile cause done well is just plain bad, period. Freeway is exactly that -- well done trash. Well, the first half is. The second half is just trash.