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While watching this film I was disgusted, disturbed, and horrified
while all the while LOVING THIS FILM. Living in a house where fairy
tale literature is commonplace (my wife studies Children's Literature),
I was surprised by this film. Seeing it in the value bin at most video
stores, I expected poor production, horrible direction, and a pathetic
cast. We have all seen these films that boast big names, but somehow
never fully follow through. Freeway is nothing of the kind. It is a
carefully written and delivered retelling of one of our most beloved
fairy tales with a extremely dark twist.
Reece Witherspoon (pre-Legally Blonde) gives a performance that surprised me. I did not realize that she was so capable of bringing this character to life. Her counterpart, the illustrious 'Wolf', played by 80s child Keifer Sutherland, is yet another powerful force in this film. The two of them nearly carry this film on their shoulders. This is one of those perfect examples of a film that did not have much publicity after its release, but has since then obtained 'cult' status through avid viewer's word of mouth. This is definitely a film for all movie critics, film buffs, and fanatics to gaze at just once. I know there were some poor reviews when it was first released, but I am sure that a second viewing would bring this gem back to life.
I would also like to add that director Matthew Bright is a film genius. He successfully took a very wholesome and good natured story (or that we think) and transforms it into the fearsome dark story that it should be. Our society has the consistency of taking dark elements and transforming them into stories for our children. A wolf eats a grandmother in this story how happy and uplifting is that? I applaud Bright for taking this story and transforming it into a modern day fairy tale. It is gripping, fascinating, and downright beautiful.
If you enjoyed Natural Born Killers and was hoping for a nicer twist, this film is your answer. I also suggest that if you couldn't get enough of Freeway that you try to get your hands on the very rare Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby. See how Bright delicately transforms yet another dark fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel) into a modern masterpiece.
Grade: ***** out of *****
I remembered Kiefer Sutherland played a psychotic killer....and IMDB lead me right to this one. I had seen bits and pieces of this movie on cable and couldn't believe how good it was, but back in those days we didn't have "channel info". This movie is wickedly funny, and Reese Witherspoon plays the most hilarious, bad-girl, tough trailer trash role I've ever seen and plays it fantastically. The slutty makeup and outfits she wears as well as the endless stream of profanity she swears are definitely a lot different than her "modern day" good girl roles she seems stuck in now. This movie is funnier than you can possibly imagine, as things keep happening that just blow you away or shock the pants off you and no main character is what they seem to be at first. Definitely unpredictable, this dark comedy is a rare lost gem I was glad to find again.
Although it started out slow, it really picked up the pace when Vanessa
into Bob's SUV type vehicle. As the movie went on, it easily turned out to
be one of the best movies I've seen in years. Dark, gory and still full of
laughs in a twisted way. How Reese Witherspoon didn't win an Academy Award
for this is a mystery. I have found new respect for Reese and glad to know
she isn't all about fluff movies catering to woman (i.e., "Sweet Home
Alabama"). I hope Reese digs into the grittier side of life again and does
another movie of the "Freeway" caliber and leave her mantle of "the next
Ryan" at home!
Way to go Reese, this movie is definitely worth owning!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Deeply entrenched in the subversive world of cult films, "Freeway"
could be one of the most engrossing movies I've ever seen. Reminiscent
of the films of John Waters, it's a satire of such unfunny things as
serial killings, drug abuse, prostitution, sexual abuse of underage
children, prison life, random acts of violence, and suicide. Like the
best Waters, Matthew Bright finds the pathos in all of these things,
shaping the movie into a nihilistic comedy.
Reese Witherspoon is absolutely marvelous as her character, Vanessa Lutz, a sharp-witted "white trash" girl who makes the best out of every situation she finds herself in. Her mother is a drug-addled prostitute. Her stepfather is a jobless, sexually abusive moron who also hits the pipe. Vanessa herself has a history of being in trouble with the law and has trouble reading, but she's far from stupid. We never once doubt that she will prevail, no matter how desperate her situation becomes.
Vanessa is forced to make a move one day when her parents are arrested and a social worker plans on sending Vanessa to another foster home. Unable to face that prospect, she gives her social worker the slip and hits the road to search for her grandmother, who she has never met and who is not even aware of Vanessa's existence. Vanessa's life takes a detour when her car breaks down and she is picked up by Kiefer Sutherland. She does not know that he is the "I-5 Killer", a pathetic but cunning serial murderer who preys on young women he plucks from the freeway. Unfortunately for him, he comes up against the wrong victim when he targets Vanessa.
The rest of the story is best left unsaid, although Roger Ebert gave away most of the plot in his review of the film from 1996 (don't ya just love when he does that?). Bright actually references John Waters several times, first by inserting a brief passage that features the opening theme from "Pink Flamingos" and also by making a plot point out of the fact that Vanessa, who is white, has a thing for black guys (much like Penny Pingleton in "Hairspray"). The dialogue is often outrageous, too. But unlike Waters' early films, "Freeway" is technically well-made and structurally better. It also features a number of terrific cameos and roles, including Brooke Shields as Sutherland's snooty, blissfully ignorant wife.
Fans of offbeat movies in general might really love "Freeway", while others should probably approach it with a strong stomach.
This film is somewhat deceptive, in that the characters seem so outwardly stereotypical of the kind of the sub class of the under-educated, drug or sex addled teenagers and the people who prey on them, which makers of slasher films have doled out in the last couple of decades. But Witherspoon brings a fighting charm to the lead character, Venessa Lutz, who has just about everything bad thrown at her that a young person can have thrown at them while growing up. She survives and prevails with grittiness, will and humor. As far from an angel as you can get she becomes vigilante and enforcer of her own brand of justice to a particularly malevolent form of evil visited on by Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) and an uncaring and unbelieving law enforcement system. It's really a small classic and should be viewed without any predjudice of youth crime. It then becomes an eloquent statement for better and more rational treatment of young offenders.
Teenaged Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) is illiterate and has a VIOLENT
temper. Her prostitute mother has just been jailed so she tries to get to
her grandmother. She's picked up by Bob Wolveton (Kiefer Sutherland) who
might be a mass murderer...
Film begins and ends like a very perverse version of "Little Red Riding Hood". The middle has Witherspoon trying to get to her grandmothers. The film is VERY VERY violent with virtual non-stop swearing and plenty of sexual talk thrown in. How it got by with an R rating is beyond me. Still, I love it. What the point of this is I don't know, but it's unlike any other film I've ever seen. It's not afraid to push over the limit of good taste and is never dull. Also the acting is just great. Witherspoon attacks her role full force and is just astounding. Sutherland is equally good as the wolf (Wolveton--get it?) and the supporting cast is full of talented actors (Amanda Plummer, Michael T. Weiss, Dan Hedaya) all doing great.
An undiscovered little gem. But be warned--the violence and language is more than a little extreme. NOT for the squeamish.
Move over, Pulp Fiction. Freeway is totally outrageous, over the top hilarious, yet it all somehow has the ring of either truth or understanding or both. The performance delivered by Reese Witherspoon was not only great, it was startlingly great and the best thing I've seen her do. Each turn in the story hit me like a slap in the face, each new character was like a gift, but Reese Witherspoon playing the queen of trailer park trash was done like a symphony. Fantastic!
In other hands this story might have become just another cheesy teen
exploitation flick. But in Matthew Bright's "Freeway" we have a solid
script, confident direction, an excellent supporting cast, and a gleefully
twisted world view, all backing up a boldly brilliant star-turn performance
by Reese Witherspoon. Her Vanessa Lutz is brazen, coarse, violent,
manipulative, and seemingly doomed no matter which way she turns. But at the
end of the day, of every day, she remains her own person, and nothing can
intimidate or stop her. Witherspoon seems to live and breathe this demanding
role, with never a hint of 'acting a part' -- which is to say she is doing
some very fine acting indeed. Vanessa Lutz is a role like Forrest Gump,
though even more challenging, where one tiny step out of character would
spoil the whole thing. But Miss Witherspoon never misses.
Plus, it was great to see Kiefer Sutherland play a smarmy, goody-two-shoes psychopathic villain. Much more fun than his trained chipmunk limp-wrist tendentiousness in "24." I have seen no evidence that this man can actually act, but he really does not need to here. When he first appeared on screen I thought, 'Oh no, this movie's over.' But soon I discovered, to my delight, that he he had been cast precisely for his pathetic loser quality.
For some reason IMDB classifies Freeway as a 'crime/drama,' which mostly misses the point. It is a diabolical black comedy with lots of violent action, some of it realistic, but most of it wonderfully absurd. All in all it earns a solid 8/10 for being funny and satisfying, a movie which I would happily watch again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Reese Witherspoon can
no wrong after the performance she gives here - brilliant. She is the
Montana of teenage girls! And lets not forget Brook Shields as the
wife of the serial killer standing by her man through the
The best scene is the shoot-out where Reese and the cops walk away smoking cigarettes and laughing as if the whole thing had been a big joke.
Great stuff! Puts "Natural Born Killers" to shame!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A brilliant, deliciously creative title sequence, backed by a manic
Danny Elfman score, sets the trashy, perverted tone of this "adult"
version of "Little Red Riding Hood".
After her parents (Amanda Plummer and Michael T. Weiss) are arrested for prostitution and a parole violation, Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon) hits the road for Granny's house.
Along the way she meets rapist/kiddie porn-loving psychologist Bob Wolverton (Keifer Sutherland) and pumps some bullets into him for his inevitable transgression.
The narrative here is deliberately nuts and the perverted tone is not to be taken seriously. Trash-loving director Mathew Bright, who also helmed the gloriously exploitive BUNDY, blends elements from slasher movies, courtroom dramas, women-in-prison (WIP) epics, horror flicks and soft core porn flicks into this fascinating celluloid stew.
Bright, like Larry Clark, appears to be cinematic ally obsessed with women's crotches and panties and sexually promiscuous girls of the under aged or barely legal variety (this is not a criticism, merely an observation). In one zipper-busting scene, a semi-crippled hottie stands up into frame to give us a front seat view of her crotch. During a fight amongst prison inmates, dresses are ripped asunder and, as expected, lesbian love finds a home in Vanessa's jail cell.
The festering air of sleaze and shameless exploitation makes FREEWAY a refreshing little number. You can only admire Bright's affectionate approach to the trashy material and be grateful that the once-great John Waters did not get a crack at it.
The resolution at Granny's house is too predictable to carry any weight, but the trip itself is never boring.
Witherspoon is a ball of angry talent in her first major starring role and has done nothing this interesting since.
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