When his wife goes into a troubled labor while he is on the road over 1200 miles away James Kowalski, an ex race car driver and a former Army Ranger, attempts to elude police while trying ... See full summary »
Charles Robert Carner
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Kowalski works for a car delivery service. He takes delivery of a 1970 Dodge Challenger to take from Colorado to San Francisco, California. Shortly after pickup, he takes a bet to get the car there in less than 15 hours. After a few run-ins with motorcycle cops and highway patrol they start a chase to bring him into custody. Along the way, Kowalski is guided by Supersoul - a blind DJ with a police radio scanner. Throw in lots of chase scenes, gay hitchhikers, a naked woman riding a motorbike, lots of Mopar and you've got a great cult hit from the early 70's. Written by
According to Sarafian on the commentary, he made the film on a budget of 1.3 million. Sarafian also admitted that he had surpassed the allotted budget by $80k due to executive producer Richard Zanuck taking a liking to the film. Zanuck then hired eight different teams of Dolby artists to bring a visceral aesthetic to the Challenger. In the end, Sarafian lost 2.5 points which he joked were "Vanishing Points!" See more »
In the opening sequence, when the Challenger makes the bootleg turn in front of the bulldozers, you can see that the driver is apparently wearing a curly wig (to match Barry Newman's hair) over a helmet, making his head look ridiculously oversized. See more »
This radio station was named Kowalski, in honour of the last American hero to whom speed means freedom of the soul. The question is not when's he gonna stop, but who is gonna stop him.
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The Fox logo is shown without the fanfare making it one of the first times this has happened. See more »
Kowalski transports cars across the western US in 1970. He gets a gig transporting a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco and sets out at maximum warp, stopping only for gas and strategy. He commits no crime outside of speeding, and fleeing the cops who are trying to stop him simply because he will not stop. He finds allies along the way, including an old prospector, a DJ named Super Soul, and a hippie who seems to me to be an alternate ending to the life of Peter Fonda's character Wyatt in "Easy Rider". He drives and drives and drives until he meets his destiny in a tiny town on the California-Nevada border at 10:04 AM on some unnamed Sunday.
Why? Is it because of his past; ex-cop, ex-racer, tragically bereaved? Is it because of the truckload of speed he takes at the beginning of the movie (draw your own metaphors between Kowalski's internal use of the noun and external use of the verb)?
Or is it the road, the infinite expanses of the Southwest, the silence, the freedom, the sound of the motor surging, the tires spinning, the wheels gobbling up and sitting out the black asphalt? Who knows? Kowalski seems indifferent as to why he drives, only that he must drive, must evade, must get to where he is going and will not - can not - be stopped.
Do yourself a favor. Rent the original, don't see the '97 made for TV movie (it has some high points, but it's like watching the '99 "Psycho" before seeing the Alfred Hitchcock original). In fact, rent this and "Two Lane Blacktop" from Monte Hellman, and "Mad Max" and/or "The Road Warrior". Watch all of them in as close to one sitting as you can get.
If after watching these movies, you don't understand how they're expressions of the same call to the open road, return them and give up. Not everyone was meant to hear it, just like not everyone has perfect pitch or the ability to wiggle their ears.
This movie drove me (pun intended) to take the handle kowalski and buy a Challenger of my own (flame red, 1973, you see the 1970 R/Ts are very hard to get).
It probably won't do the same for you, but if you've ever been driving down the open road and wondered what would happen if you _didn't_ get off at the next exchange, in fact if you never got off at all, then this film is for you.
And I hope the next ignoramus who compares this masterful film to "The Dukes of Hazzard" loses his brakes and plows into a line of parked Harleys outside some bar with a name like Whiskey Junction or the Dew Drop Inn.
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