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 execute producer Richard Zanuck taking a like for 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 »
After entering Nevada, Kowalski pulls off the road and there is not a car in sight behind him. When a close-up is shown of him inside the car, a vehicle can be seen passing by from behind. See more »
Seeing it again is a real lesson on how certain cinematic language, if presented purely, transcends. And for a US-made movie, it is pretty pure.
If you do not know it, the primary narrative is essentially no narrative: a muscle car speeding across the desert chased by police, initially for speeding and ultimately just to exert power. This fellow is Kowalski, a name imported from a landmark film. He simply drives. It is his life now. We see flashbacks. Find he was a Medal of Honor winner in Vietnam, a star racer and then a cop. There's a backstory about his being a good cop and turning in some rotten apples, so by degrees we come to understand the moral landscape.
There is only one other character, a blind black disk jockey who is listened to by apparently everyone. Guided by his eavesdropping on police radio, and some psychic ability.
This was after "Easy Rider" and instead of bold men moving into a life, we have life chasing an honest man. Same ethic, could even have been the same man. But he knows himself. He knows he is a cinematic creature, someone to be observed and dreamed about. He knows he carries his world with him. Always borrowed.
You can see Malick here, the notion that the character sees us seeing him, that he knows he is fictional and knows we think him not. You can trace it to the female version in "Thelma and Louise," where they have their end only because they know someone will watch. Its not like "Cool Hand Luke," or "Bonnie and Clyde" at all where the man decides. That comes from the Hollywood western.
Its derived from the "Breathless" tradition.
A good third of this film is spent on the "audience," the rural townspeople. These parts are filmed in a documentary style, with it seems real people who have come to watch the filming, having heard on the radio from a borrowed soul. They look dumb and bored, clearly with nothing better to do than watch, just like us.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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