Highwaymen (2003) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for violence, some gore and brief language
Running Time: 80 min.

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, Colm Feore
Director: Robert Harmon

Screenplay: Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer
Review published September 10, 2004

At a small motel in the middle of nowhere, Rennie Cray (Caviezel, The Count of Monte Cristo) lost everything that was dear to him, when a hit-and-run driver runs over his wife and speeds away. Fast forward to five years later, and Cray is the one driving around like a maniac, searching for all of his days for the man responsible. Apparently, this man is still out there running innocent people down, and Rennie wants to be the man to finally put him to rest for good. The driver finally makes a mistake, or so it seems, when he allows Molly (Mitra, Get Carter) to stay alive, only furthering the cat-and-mouse game between the men, and just like a real cat, he likes to toy with his prey.

Highwaymen is a dismal excursion into simple-minded car crash pornography, with the only saving grace coming from the mercifully short running time. If the creators of this brainless entertainment really had mercy, they would have spared us this film altogether. I suppose it would be too much to expect greatness from screenwriters whose previous work includes Anaconda and Komodo, but after seeing the finished product, they could have shot this without a script and probably not lost much in the way of quality.

The director is Robert Harmon, who made a very similar film back in 1986 with the b-movie classic, The Hitcher, but unlike that film, Highwaymen ditches all credibility early on and gets progressively more ridiculous. Many will find similarities to another faceless maniac on the road feature, Joyride, which wasn't much better, but at least had a sense of humor about itself. Highwaymen plays very little for laughs, although it is sometimes funny in an unintentional way. It's b-movie schlock that will most likely only please those who enjoy wanton carnage without any overhead that requires you to think deeply about anything. It's purely visceral action at the lowest common denominator, and anything resembling substance, or even logic, is jettisoned in favor of over-the-top havoc.

All in all, I found Highwaymen to be full of too many plot holes, unlikely physics, and far too contrived situations to ever swallow the premise down in a satisfactory way. I was actually insulted by how little effort went into making this shallow idea fly, and the lack of intelligence carries over into every character and possible motivation, with a curious lack of understanding in routine police procedures ignored much of the way, until almost nothing makes any practical sense. What we're left with is smash mouth destruction and little else, and the only reason I'm not giving it the lowest rating is because there is a pleasing aesthetic quality to it. Too bad the story couldn't have been better developed.

Watch Mad Max or Duel to see this kind of film done with some integrity.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo