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Well, I disagree. I think Speedway Junky was very well acted.
Jordan Brower's heart-felt unrequited love really getting to me. I ended up wishing there was a boy out there like that for me. Daryl Hannah had a good supporting role, as did Jesse.
I thought it was very well done. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's definitely worth watching. I loved it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Novice director Nikolas Perry who made a fine debut with the short film "Must Be the Music" attempts to create another trendy Hollywood skid row druggie film but with a twist as a "buddy" film. And this one is set in Las Vegas. Jordan Brower is appealing as Eric and has particularly good chemistry with Jesse Bradford. These two would be worth casting together in another "buddy" feature. Beyond that one gets the sense that we've seen this all before including the obligatory death of the gay character. Perry explains, in his directory's commentary, that the death is an act of love--a sacrifice. Perhaps, but this film never sets the right tone for such a deeply symbolic conclusion. Like so many rookie writer- directors, Perry suffers from making the film too "busy" with endless characters, no sense of momentum, and endless clichés. Or perhaps the money people took over and made the film by committee? It has that look. Happily we are spared from the peek-a-boo nudity that is typical of these films: where the director goes to great lengths to get the actors naked then hide their nudity through awkward posing, clever placement of props, and so on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a ridiculous version of male hustlers and other assorted
homeless teens because it is done in such a clean-cut manner. I assume
that the people that drifter teen Johnny encounter during his stay in
Las Vegas would be much more hostile, crazy, and the like. If you're
not looking for a vigorous story of similar circumstances like say,
'Where the Day Takes You,' then Speedway Junky is a good weening toy.
The story is that of a recent high school dropout, Johnny, who's Southern accent miraculously comes and go. Upset with his military father's strict manner of upbringing, and perhaps lack of affection (I don't see how, really, or at least they never make much of Johnny's perceived 'abuses' and 'neglect' evident), he decides to hitchhike his way to North Carolina to be none other than a member of Richard Petty's stock car racing team. If you know incredulous Hollywood movies, then you should already expect Johnny to go through a lot of crap, but some how wind up with a happy ending in the end.
Johnny gets robbed of his twenty-bucks worth of quarters from a Casino. The rest of his things are taken by a horny middle-aged pimp with a penchant for boys in leather collars. So Johnny is stuck. Luckily, he befriends a group of street kids. Namely, Eric (played nicely by Jordan Brower), the kid who helps Johnny out the most when it seem many others won't. He also introduces him to the life of hustling, stolen cars, and the like. And Johnny, though successful at times, still seems like a major amateur. A ridiculously comical one at that.
Enter Steve, played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who interestingly enough replaced Balthazar Ghetty in the role (Ghetty plays a similar character in 'Where the Day Takes You' only less dehumanized). Steve is like the professional teen hustler, who'll do anything his clients ask as long as he gets paid. Johnny and Eric get into serious trouble when Steven steals another kid's stash of drugs and money, and he isn't the kind of kid you just say sorry to and then treat to ice cream.
Eric is the more interesting character. A gay young man, he likes Johnny, but is consistently obsessed with the idea that maybe Johnny isn't going to carry on the deep friendship Eric imagines simply because Johnny is straight. Johnny is kind of an obnoxious character, despite being the main presence in the movie. He is the nice guy, the charming guy, but in the end, still a hopeless doofus.
The rest of the characters, too, are simply comical caricatures with what seems like no reality in there that would entice the viewer to form emotional connections with or somehow empathize or whatever. We learn no lessons from this movie either, which I suppose is inherent in movies like these, that you should walk away with something. Why would they spend so much time on the story and dramatic elements and character development (or lack thereof) as a result? There's a reason for all of that. Only here, it doesn't work. Johnny is a moron and for that, I really found it hard to appreciate whatever stupid dilemma he got himself into. One after the other. Steve, too, though a disgusting character, is hardly real. Nothing happens to him. He just floats in and out of the scenes to remind you of a villainous presence. And the ending was just corny as hell.
I'd stick with 'Where the Day Takes You' if this is the kind of movie you desire. Or, at least see it for Brower's performance.
Despite some rough edges and a questionable Hollywood-like ending, this film offers an endearing relationship between two young men, one gay, the other not. Unrequited love raises its ugly head in the underworld of Las Vegas, with hustlers and drug dealers. Our hero wants to become a racer and make enough money to travel to Charlotte, NC. The other young man only wants someone to take care of and be there when times are rough. Their lives mix with a motley bunch of characters, most of whom only want a sexual favor or a drug turn-on. The acting of the two male leads is superb, with Eric as a truly tragic figure. But why did the screenwriter need to contrive the brutal ending? I suppose a film with a rough edge needs a rough edge ending, but once in a while can't the characters win? This film needs to be seen a couple times before final judgment is rendered. I gave it an 8/10, which is much higher than other reviewers, because it delivers a very important human theme that all of us can identify with.
I was expecting something good out of this movie -- it being produced by
Van Sant and all, the genius behind two incredible gay films, My Own
Idaho and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise
because of the inane plot (kid runs off to become a race car driver in
Virginia, and then decides to become a hussler). Luckily, Gus Van Sant's
influence is evident in a few scenes, which makes me think there's a good
movie in there somewhere.
At times, Speedway Junky feels like a Gen-Y remake of My Own Private Idaho, and it obviously doesn't do its predeccesor justice. However, the two male leads are far less complex and their relationship is as well. Interestingly, the chemistry between them saves this movie from complete obscurity. Too bad they're surrounded by mind-numbingly cliched supporting characters and crumby, juvenile dialogue ("Steven is bisexual. If you buy him something, he'll have sex with you.")
But, like I said, there's a bit of Van Sant in this film, most notably in the scenes between the two protagonists. If the director (incidently, I don't know who directed it) had focused on this relationship more than the hoky prostitution subplot, we would've had some fine gay cinema on our hands. Too bad.
Also, the influence Midnight Cowboy had on this film is mammoth. In both films, a naive guy with a Southern accent comes to the big city with high hopes, but ends up as a john alongside an unlikely friend, who may or may not be an object of desire. The ending is similar too, but I don't want to ruin it in case anyone actually wants to watch either movie.
All in all, bad movie, but if you look closely, you'll see it could've been great. It sadly doesn't come close to its influences: My Own Private Idaho and Midnight Cowboy.
Midnight Cowboy wannabe about a teen (Jesse Bradford) who runs away to Vegas
in order to raise some quick cash in order to live his dream as a race car
driver. However, his dreams are shattered upon arrival in Vegas and he
quickly becomes friends with a gay hustler (Jordan Brower) and his extended
group of friends including a former hooker (Daryl Hannah) and a bisexual
hustler (Johnathon Taylor Thomas).
Jesse Bradford's accent comes and goes. He makes a poor choice for a leading man in this film. Jordan Brower on the other hand is perfectly cast. Johnathon Taylor Thomas is sensational and Daryl Hannah makes the most of a small, but important role. The start and end of this film are very weak, but the midsection is compelling and gripping.
Rated R; Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content.
Speedway Junky finds young and innocent Jesse Bradford who was raised
in a military family running away from California to Charlotte, North
Carolina so he can become part of the NASCAR circuit. Jesse makes a
detour in Las Vegas and begins an odyssey with an ending that would
have astonished him before he entered Sin City.
Getting ripped off his first night in Vegas, Bradford falls in with a gang of street hustlers led by Jonathan Taylor Thomas of whom one of the members is gay kid Jordan Brower. Bradford does what he has to do to survive, but not being gay or street wise his heart just ain't in the work.
But Brower's heart is with Bradford, he's crushing out big time on Jesse and sad to say that aspect of the friendship isn't and can't be returned. Or can it?
Bradford and Brower are an appealing pair of young kids just trying to survive. Jonathan Taylor Thomas shows some acting chops that you would not suspect he had as Tim Allen's son. Tiffani Amber-Thiessen another television refugee from Saved By The Bell and 90210 is also on hand as well.
Some make it, some don't survive this film. Speedway Junky is touching story that will break a few hearts, gay or straight.
this movie, is a great movie, personally i like high definition films but the story is excellent! jesse bradford plays a stranded hustler that moves to vegas to make money where he meets jordan brower and jonathon taylor thomas, jordan plays a gay hustler that falls in love with jesse this movie is a 100 % thumbs up i insist that everyone watches it.
For a supposedly bunch of cultured, educated,
intelligent, and especially creative folks, gay people
to make the same movie over and over and over. "Speedway
Junky" is old news. Writer/Director Nickolas Perry mixes
"Midnight Cowboy," "Where the Day Takes You," "johns," and
ABC Afterschool Special and comes up with a concoction
bland that you'll find yourself pushing it around on your
plate, wondering what to do with it.
The story focuses on a naive county boy runaway (Jesse Bradford) who comes to Las Vegas to strike it rich so that he can become a race car driver. Of course, he is practically robbed, raped and beaten by the time the first reel is over. The film's most nauseating segment concerns a businessman who picks up the young boy for obvious reasons. Of course, Jesse is blind to the whole scenario until it gets real obvious. It's revolting stereotypical crud.
But Jesse is fortunate enough to meet young Jordan Brower, a gay urban hustler who takes him under his wing. Jordan has his sights on Jesse but he's such a sweet young gay hustler that he wouldn't dream of forcing himself on the other boy. They become fast friends when Jesse gets the stuffingkicked out of him and Jordan nurses him back to health, like the good homosexual teenage boy that he is. Of course, Jesse is straight, so Jordan is wasting his time here. Wow - how novel!
Along the way there is much more trash. Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays the king of the strip, a teen hustler who does it all if the price is right. Of course, the biggest draw here is to see the wholesome milk-drinking TV star say "fuck" and talk about taking it up the ass. Whoopie. Thomas does the best he can, but he is relegated to the backdrop of the Jesse/Jordan love story - or rather, the lack thereof of it. Thomas also has to compete against some of the worst acting in the world, brought forth by Daryl Hannah, Tiffany Amber- Thiesen and some unknowns who were unfortunate enough to be cast here. It's a shambles.
If there is any savior of the piece, it is Brower who does his absolute best here to bring his gay teen character to life. He's might be quite good with the right director and costars. The scenes between him and Hannah almost work. A particularly good scene comes when Brower cries in unrequited love while his friend Jesse makes it with Hannah. The scenes are quick cut back and forth but the heterosexual scene doesn't go far enough. We know why Brower is in anguish, he is thinking of Jesse with the older woman. The scene with Jesse and Hannah, however, is so dull, so lackluster, so bland that it doesn't really work. Brower would be thinking of his love interest in bed with the woman, not just him kissing her tenderly. It just doesn't go far enough. It doesn't have enough oomph. It's too darn Hollywood "safe." Too bad Brower works so hard for almost no payoff. That's his problem in the whole movie. He's the only one on screen with any chops.
Perry somehow talked Gus Van Sant into producing this piece of drivel. Hope Gus did it as a tax write-off. Why would he produce a watered-down drab rip-off of his own "My Own Private Idaho?" "Speedway Junky" is pure soap opera. There is no spark here, no joy, no fun and nothing new. Same crud, different film. Perry doesn't even seem to be trying. There is no glimmering in his direction. There is not one interesting shot (does the camera even move?) and definitely no unifying theme or motif or visual sense. Even Las Vegas as a backdrop looks bland. In many ways, it would be more fun to sit in the 4 Queens casino on the strip and drop quarters in the slot machines than to sit through this sorry waste of film. But occassionally you hit a small payoff, and Brower pops up with another good bit of acting in an otherwise barren wasteland of lost, pointless neon.
Personal Notes: Seen on 8/28/99 as part of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Independent Film Festival. The director, an extremely nice man, was in attendance and did a Q&A session. Among other tales was the story of hiring JTT. Another actor had been hired to play the role of Steven but showed up incapacitated . Perry was given 48 hours to find a new teenage "name actor" or the film would be scraped. JTT was on hiatus during the summer from "Home Improvement" and accepted the role after being faxed pages of the script.
Perry did not write the cross cut scene where Bradford and Hannah make love and Brower cries. He had those as separate entities. The editor did this and showed it to Perry who wisely saw it's genius.
Perry said that he thought of Brower's character as a sort of saint but did not consciously act visually on this idea. He said many people see religious imagery in the film. I myself saw a scene where a hubcap in the background was lit so that it became a halo over a scene. Perry said this was not a conscious thing.
Perry said he had written many scripts about L.A. fringe youth but none had sold. He made a short film called "Must Be the Music" (shown at agliff in '96) which Van Sant saw and liked. The director agreed to work with Perry about the time he was coming off the phenomenal "Good Will Hunting" which helped spark interest in his script for "Speedway Junky" and got the ball rolling.
Perry said his next project was that he was hired to write a script about a rock star who fakes his own death after his biggest hit so he can find the girl of his dreams. Uck!
At this time, the film is still seeking a distributor.
I'd been wanting to see this film for a while, and I'm very disappointed
that I have. The first thing I found problematic was the complete lack of
plot in the first half hour. A story really needs to capture people's
attention right from the start. This story did not. After that, what plot
there was (which we've seen many times before -- and done much better!)
extremely contrived and totally predictable. The writing was stale and
overflowing with cliches. And -- granted, though, I don't know any teenage
hustlers in Vegas -- I found the characters to be completely
This was due partly to the hokey script but also partly to the miscasting
some of the central characters, especially Erik Alexander Gavica as "J.T."
find it hard to believe that anyone could ever REALLY think he was
until after his voice had changed!
The one thing in this film I WAS pleased with -- and surprisingly so -- was Darryl Hannah's performance. I've never been much of a fan of hers, but I was impressed with her understated performance, especially given the weak material she had to work with and the fact that everyone else was overacting. I usually AM a fan of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, but even he was unfortunately miscast in this film.
"Speedway Junky" was a noble attempt, but didn't quite hit the mark.
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