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Packard Walsh and his motorized gang control and terrorize an Arizona desert town where they force drivers to drag-race so they can 'win' their vehicles. After Walsh stabs the decent teenager Jamie Hankins to death for being intimate with a girl whom Walsh wants for himself, the mysterious Jake Kesey arrives, an extremely cool motor-biker with an invincible car. Jake befriends Jamie's girlfriend Keri Johnson, takes Jamie's sweet brother Billy under his wing and manages what Sheriff Loomis can not - the methodical and otherworldly elimination of Packard's criminal gang. Written by
If you care to travel back to 1986, you'll see a young and not-yet popular Charlie Sheen star as a ghost with a vengeance. This, of course, means that you'll have to endure a few eighties quirks, which gave the decade its unique character.
"The Wraith" is a creative story about a bunch of drag-racing town bullies who are into taking what they wish, mostly by force. The town police (although shown as macho) appear feckless in apprehending the thugs. The town's populus remain largely actionless due to their fear. The kingpin of these hooligans is Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes - son of famous actor John Cassavetes). Charlie Sheen plays Jake, the reincarnation of a slain victim (Jamie) of the town thugs. He appears out of nowhere and soon begins conversations with Packard Walsh's girlfriend, an action considered lethal. Soon a mysterious driver with an exotic, futuristic-looking car (the real-life Dodge-Chrysler Interceptor M4S) appears on the scene and begins drag-racing Packard's gang into the grave.
This film gives us some great eighties in it's soundtrack which includes Robert Palmer and Billy Idol. It also gives a look at the popular "punk" look of the eighties in the character of Skank. I recently discovered that the Wraith's car was a real-life automobile. And only one original model was actually loaned from Chrysler. The other shots were of "shell" models, without engines, etc. During the filming of the good drag-race shots on the mountainsides outside of Tuscon, one of the crew members was killed and another critically wounded.
I had some dislike for the film in the completely idiotic and helpless nature of Packard's thugs. In fact, I had a bit of trouble in believing the entire town's pacifisim towards Packard. There is one strange scene involving a sexual encounter between Packard and some local girl, where she thanks the sheriff for showing up. This just didn't add any credibility. But then again the whole movie is a bit incredible, especially the Wraith's car and its ability to keep that Windex shine after blowing up. And I never did figure out what the deal was with that one part that glowed at the end of every crash. More 80's sfx...? I chuckled for an instant though when I saw the Wraith enter Packard's warehouse in that "spacesuit" with what appeared to be a "space shotgun". What was the deal with that? I was beginning to think Jake's body was beamed aboard an alien ship before he died and now he was returning with their technology.
A good story for the eighties, but not one to take too seriously. Be sure to admire Sherilyn Fenn's teeny character, Keri. Oh, I also read you can buy an M4S Interceptor replica for about $70,000. Ouch! 6/10
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