(Air Date: Week Of 8/28/96)
To me, THIS is the golden age of the movies. To be sure, Hollywood studios are still the same cumbersome, second-guessing, bandwagon-climbing monstrosities they've always been. But in the bad old days, actors who wanted to try something different in the low-budget independent arena found themselves in professional coventry for the duration. Some of their careers never recovered from the industry impression that they were on the skids. Today, careers get jump starts, actors receive Academy recognition & hot new directors do their best work away from the meddling mitts of major studio flunkies.
Reece Witherspoon, for example, has played peaches-and-cream roles for the last five years: for MGM in "Man In The Moon", for Disney in "A Far Off Place", for Polygram in "S. F. W." Who better to cast as the ultimate Little Red Riding Hood in Mathew Bright's abrasively funny & ferociously smart new Roxie release, "Freeway". As Vanessa Lutz, Witherspoon digs into the DNA of every disadvantaged kid who ever got shafted by society and comes up with a scary portrait of exactly what makes her tick...AND explode. Vanessa's history includes shoplifting, prostitution, arson and violence, but she remains unjaded and achingly vulnerable. She is, in fact, the ideal target for the Big Bad Wolf, (Keifer Sutherland as Bob Wolverton) a misleadingly sympathetic pillar of society who works with kids and lives in a nice house with his pretty wife, Brooke Shields (giving her career a much-needed jump start after three years of cinematic inactivity.)
Brooke doesn't know about her hubby's secret stash of porno magazines or the fact that that HE is the I-5 serial killer, preying on defenseless hookers. Vanessa has any number of remarkable dimensions to her character, but 'defenseless' is not among them. On her way to Granny's trailer, she accepts a Spanish gun from a doomed boyfriend, so when Bob moves in for the kill, Vanessa is ready. But the movie doesn't end there, Big Bad Bob Wolverton being one of those invincible types who just doesn't know how to lie down dead after being riddled in the head and back with bullets. Bright still has a great deal to say about how society has a firm grip on deceptively obvious formulas that are far more easily assimilated than the truth. Sutherland has a blast-and-a-half as the Wolf, but if they gave Oscars for the most outstanding hitchhiker since Ann Savage snagged Tom Neal in 1945's "Detour", Witherspoon would win for "Freeway" with no serious competition. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
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