Highwaymen (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/06/2004


Three out of Five stars

Enjoyably trashy thriller that gleefully nicks bits from better movies such as Duel, RoadKill and Crash but is slightly let down by a disappointing script.

Director Robert Harmon's feature debut was the 1986 cult thriller The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer. Since then, with the exception of a Van Damme flick, Harmon's films have largely been Straight To Video (Hideous Sun Demon, anyone?) so perhaps it's not that much of a surprise that Highwaymen bears such a close resemblance to The Hitcher, as well as other, better films such as Duel, RoadKill and Crash. That said it's still an enjoyably trashy, admirably economical thriller that packs the requisite amount of car-fixated serial killer action into a stream-lined 82 minutes.

Jim "The Christ" Caviezel plays Rennie Cray, a man obsessed with catching the hit-and-run serial killer who killed his wife five years previously. He does this by driving around America in a souped-up 1968 Plymouth Barracuda, his radio constantly tuned to the police frequency, in case any hit-and-runs come in. At the scene of a particularly nasty motorway pile-up engineered by the killer he meets Molly (Rhona Mitra) and quickly realises that, as the sole survivor, she will be his next target. So, in none-too-heroic fashion, he decides to use her as bait whether she likes it or not. Meanwhile, traffic cop Will Macklin (Frankie Faison) is hot on Cray's trail...

Highwaymen has a decent central idea, neatly combining the 'killer taunts hero via CB radio bit' from RoadKill with the 'anonymous psycho behind wheel' conceit from Duel, while throwing in a spot of fetishisation of crash victims from Crash. Accordingly, the film loses a little of its impact when you finally catch a glimpse of the guy behind the wheel, although, to be fair, that's sort of the point, as Cray frequently remarks: "Separate the guy from his car and he's nothing. He IS the car...

The biggest problem with Highwaymen is the script - the dialogue is pedestrian at best and laughably overblown at worst. Faison gets the occasional good line but Rhona Mitra is given nothing to do but look gorgeous (which she does, admirably), because the film-makers obviously feel that giving her character masses of traumatic back-story is 'character' enough. As it is, the relationship between her character and Cray is frustratingly under-developed and the film leaves you thinking up ways in which it could have been better.

With his performances in films such as The Passion of the Christ and The Count of Monte Cristo, Jim Caviezel is rapidly becoming the 'go to' guy for films requiring a tortured or revenge-obsessed loner and he does a decent job in Highwaymen. Mitra is basically as good as the script allows but there's strong support from Faison and Colm Feore makes a decent villain as Fargo, even if you do have to wonder why Molly just doesn't run away from him.

To cut to the chase then, Highwaymen is worth seeing, as it's the sort of film that could quite easily attract a cult following within a couple of years.

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Content updated: 21/07/2018 09:00

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