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Switchback (1997)
38 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
An under-rated top-notch serial killer thriller., 15 May 2001

I saw this film for the first time on late night television after returning from the cinema where I saw the disappointing 'Along Came a Spider'. There are similarities, but Switchback is by far the better film. Jeb Stuart has done a terrific job keeping us at the edge of the couch and there are very few cliches around. Danny Glover and the entire cast are just right, and all the characters, even the minor roles, are three-dimensional. The story centres on a young handsome hitchhiker picked up and befriended by the serial killer. But this is no ordinary serial killer -- he is Mr. Popularity along the mountain roads where they travel in buddy movie-fashion. But not for long. The killer isn't out to make new friends. What he is doing is cleverly framing the loner-hitchhiker (finger prints on murder weapon etc) so that the law will be searching for the hitchhiker, and not the real killer. That is the killer's modus operandi. So here we have this handsome hitchhiker with a mysterious past (a doctor who ran away) and a killer with a bloody past who is on the run. Enter an FBI agent (Dennis Quaid) who is wanted by the FBI. The FBI want Quaid off the case. But Quaid is a determined man: the serial killer, who he has tracked for 18 months, has kidnapped his son....All of these outsiders come through a small town where the local sheriff loses the election by opting to help the truant FBI agent find the real killer... Three quarters of the way through the film, everyone is chasing someone and the tension keeps mounting along with the altitude.

The killer has left a note with a cryptic clue that Dennis Quaid must decipher. But the key to his son's whereabouts lies elsewhere.....

This is a fresh breath of writing into a genre that has been abused and neglected of late. There are nice echos of our favourite films noir (...the hitchhiker, the loner, the car accident.....the guessing came about who is who...). There's a touch of The Fugitive, but not too much. On top of all the good acting, casting, plotting and suspense, there's nice atmosphere and locations in the Rockies.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A beautifully written, acted and directed story of an impossible love.., 14 May 2001

The Whole Wide World took me by surprise because I had never heard of it. It reminded me of the recent 'You Can Count on Me' because both are deceptively 'small' films, with powerful undercurrents and emotions. There is great dialogue, acting and directing in both films. In the way of the best of the old Hollywood movies, Whole Wide World is very romantic with just two kisses -- but what extraordinary kisses. This is the way a biopic should be -- it focuses on one element of the subject's life but is about so much more. This is one of the great and neglected stories of the artist-as-outsider. Thomas Mann would have appreciated it! The portrait of this lonely pulp fiction writer, sitting in the dustbowl, in a small town in Texas in the 1930s living life vicariously through his character Conan the Barbarian, is compelling and original. If it weren't true, it would be a great concept for a film! This concept is made more brilliant by the natural 'tension' of the plot. Novelyne Price is almost the complete opposite -- even her shared love of writing has nothing in common with Robert Howard's 'shocking' taste. There is wonderful scene where Novelyne tells Robert the plot of one of her absurd 'true confession' stories and he laughs during the entire telling, until she refuses to continue. Then they both laugh.

But the different type of writing both do introduce an interesting historical perspective into the film. Although this small town in Texas is a million miles from New York, both are aiming for the very commercial popular type of fiction that have come to characterise the 1930s -- the origin of the 'b' movie that gave us so many film classics. This was the origin of pulp fiction and Howard was one of the true originals.

The writers Michael Scott Myers, based on the book by Novalyne Price Ellis, deserve special mention for creating a 3-dimensional hero that is a real character who we actually miss and think about when the film is over. The writers/director/and the brilliant Vincent D'Onofino (from "Mystic Pizza" fame) show us so many sides to this man that he remains unpredictable compelling and believable. There is a scene in which Novalyne tells Howard what qualities he has that a woman would be attracted to : how right she is! D'Onofino/Howard acting out the stories (playing narrator and all roles) at his typewriter; his tender caring for his sick mother; his sense of humour; and his tragic inability to express his feelings for Novalyne outside of his comic book world make this one of the great cinematic roles.