I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Hitcher

tn_hitcherAfter FLESH + BLOOD, audiences were thirsty for more of that Rutger Hauer/Jennifer Jason Leigh team. They wanted to see more romantic chemistry from the Hepburn and Tracy of the ’80s.  So they got to see him tie her to a truck and… well, it’s even worse than what he did to her in FLESH + BLOOD. And she didn’t fall for him afterwards.

THE HITCHER starts off as a really good horror movie. Atmospheric shots of C. Thomas Howell driving out on the highway, drinking coffee out of a Thermos, trying to stay awake. Looks like he’s been up all night driving. It starts to rain. Maybe out of desperation to stay awake, maybe out of spontaneity, he picks up a hitchhiker, Rutger Hauer. He jokes about how his mom told him never to pick up hitchhikers. But when he tries to ask Hauer where he’s going the weirdo keeps not answering, changing the subject. Every time he does it it gets more uncomfortable. Then he starts talking about murder and dismemberment, making threats, pulls out a switchblade.

mp_hitcherSo it’s Howell vs. Hauer. Howell is in control of the car, but nothing else. You can understand why it’s not easy for him to make a move. He’s kind of a weiner, and Hauer is an intense guy. It just brings up all those feelings of being a young man, trying to be an adult but being afraid, not ready to handle everything yet. It was a big move for him to decide to move from Chicago to California by himself, he took the plunge and thought he could handle it but didn’t figure on this unstoppable psycho who may or may not really be named John Ryder.

I kind of thought it would be a confined-space threat, the two guys in the one car with constant driving threats, like SPEED. But actually he gets the psycho out of the car pretty quick. There’s a great moment of relief when he has shaken him out of his hair, will live, is a successful adult, can continue his trip relieved instead of in terror. He thinks. But Ryder has set his sights on him and keeps coming after him, and is supernaturally good at it. He’s successful enough in his stalking that I started to think maybe it was a PSYCHO deal where Ryder is this kid’s evil split personality or something.

Maybe the turning point though is when he gets arrested, interrogated, suspected of crimes he didn’t commit, wakes up and his cell is unlocked and all the cops are dead. I’m pretty sure he didn’t do that. And man, he’s fucked. What can you really do in a situation like that? I thought maybe I would go back in the cell and lock it and say shit, I was asleep, I don’t know what happened. But that’s not necessarily that much better than his plan of stealing a gun and running off into the desert.

I was a little iffy on Ryder’s abilities, it’s kinda ridiculous that he can kill all those cops and keep appearing wherever our weiner hero is. And to me it’s scarier if it seems like a real guy instead of some demon or x-man or something. Later on it turns into more of a straightup action movie as the cops are after Howell and Ryder starts killing the cops. There are great car stunts and a shot that literally made me say “How did they do that?” when it appeared that they crashed an actual helicopter.

This is a clever and well-directed movie that walks along the line between real and surreal, keeping you off balance and uncomfortable. But definitely its biggest strength is the performance by Hauer. He is so crazy and so pleased with himself and yet never goes over-the-top. His strangest moment is when he’s handcuffed and Howell spits on his face. He wipes it off but just sits there with a bit of a smile, like he’s happy about it, or proud of Howell or something.

By the way, do you guys think C. Thomas Howell could pass for a black guy? Not sure why that popped into my head.

The writer is Eric Red, who also wrote NEAR DARK but I guess is now best known for an unfortunate incident driving his car into a bar killing two people and then slashing his throat with a piece of glass (he survived and still makes movies). (and by the way I never knew about that until you guys mentioned it in my comments recently) I think this one is really well directed, but Robert Harmon didn’t do too many well known movies after this. He did do Van Damme’s NOWHERE TO RUN, the JESSE STONE movies with Tom Selleck and that Jim Caviezel movie HIGHWAYMEN which I plan to check out due to the HITCHER-esque subject matter.

I wonder about that remake too, did they make it a period piece? Hitchhiking is one of those things you can’t really hinge a modern movie on. It’s like how cell phones ruin everything in movies now, they always have to come up with the reason why the character doesn’t just use their cell phone to get help. In this case, kids wouldn’t understand why the hell C. Thomas stopped and let a stranger into his car. And they’re right. It’s not the same as other dying traditions like trick or treating or scary movies where you just shake your head in disappointment at today’s sissy, sheltered little kids. No, that’s one thing the new generation got right: you shouldn’t pick up Rutger Hauer. Let him get a cab. Shoulda listened to your mama, Howell.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2009 at 1:21 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

76 Responses to “The Hitcher”

  1. The remake sucks.
    Even Sean Bean is not good.
    But see for yourself.

    Back in the day, when I watched Hitcher for the first time with a buddy of mine(who had a huge crush on Jason-Leigh) and the whole Truck/girl scene played out, my buddy lost it and punched a hole into his living room door. He was kinda upset. And Ryder creeped me out until the end.
    Good film.

  2. I totally forgot that they made a remake of that, until you’ve mentioned it. I think I even got the DVD of it here and never watched it. The original is a great movie though and I love how Hauer pops up everywhere! (I wonder if they have explained that in the remake. Maybe they let him dig tunnels all through the desert…)

  3. The remake weaseled around the hitchhiking question by having them (C. Thomas Howell’s role was played by two people) meet the Hitcher at a gas station or something, and he convinced them that he was a nice guy who wasn’t going to try to kill them.

    And yeah, the remake is a piece of crap. It doesn’t work as action or horror or anything.

  4. It took me a long time to like The Hitcher. It always had kind of an unfinished feeling to me. It’s sort of dreamy and truncated. But the last time I watched it about a year ago, that was what I liked about it. That and all the homoeroticism.

    Coincidentally, I watched Red’s directorial debut, Cohen & Tate, last night. That’s got all the confined-space driving threat you could ask for. In fact, it’s a little too confined, since the unfortunate pan-and-scanning (it’s only out on VHS) kind of makes it feel like you’re watching the movie through a paper towel tube. Not a bad little crime flick, though. It’s sort of the anti-buddy movie, since the mismatched partners never develop a grudging mutual respect and in fact end up trying really hard to kill each other. Roy Scheider is badass as a hitman with a hearing aid, and it’s always nice to see Adam “Totally Not Related To Those Other Assholes” Baldwin in a big, juicy role. That guy can do funny and menacing equally well.

  5. CordwainerBirdIII

    August 16th, 2009 at 7:26 am

    While I really enjoy THE HITCHER, I was sorely disappointed in HIGHWAYMEN. Colm Feore is a great actor, and Caviezel is usually good, however, script-wise there wasn’t enough there for them to do anything with.

  6. File Cohen and Tate under: Needs to be on DVD.

  7. Someone should make a movie where when they need to use a cell phone, it’s just sitting there on the counter out in the open where they left it but for watever reason they cant seem to find it. That kind of shit happens all the time (like one time I was looking for my glasses and I was wearing them) and in a paniced situation I would think it’s perfectly justifiable.

    Another would be if the character just didn’t have a cell phone. You wouldn’t have to explain anything then because I don’t believe people without cell phones constantly talk about their lack of one. You just have the killer go in to kill them and you assume the victum doesn’t have a cell phone because they’re not using it.

  8. I want to like THE HITCHER more than I actually like it. Rutger Hauer is intense as fuck, it’s got some interestingly weird subtextual shit going on, their are several nice atmospheric shots and a handful of god scenes. On the other hand, I don’t like how goofy the story gets, I don’t like that it turns into an action movie in parts, and C. Thomas Howell is not a good actor. Enough of the movie works for me that I like it, but it feels like a missed opportunity for greatness/classic status.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I seem to recall greatly preferring the sorta spiritual sequel/remake that Eric Red made with Kathryn Bigelow, BLUE STEEL. It has a lot of similar plot points and themes, but I think with a much stronger director and cast and with a more fleshed out, nuanced screenplay. In it, Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie cop whose gun is stolen by complete fucking lunatic Ron Silver, who uses it to go on a killing spree. Only he’s also obsessed with Curtis and may be deliberately trying to provoke her into killing him, a la THE HITCHER.

    Vern, if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth seeing and might make for a good follow-up column to this one.

  9. A long time ago, in a more innocent time that never actually existed but in my mind. I use to rent a lot of movies at the library. I was more into horror movies then than I am now and I rented/borrowed quite a few from the library. Whenever I did so, with a horror movie, this one librarian I would often get stuck with, this was before self-check out, would often berate me for my choice of horror movies I chose to view.

    “Son. Why are you always renting this garbage? These movies are no good. If you want a real good one or even a real horror movie. You absolutely must see The Hitcher!”

    So I finally did rent The Hitcher. You should have seen how happy he was, like a proud-father he was.

    I went home and viewed this, apparently the greatest horror movie all time. I had high expectations for it as you’d imagine.

    Anyways the movie sucked pretty bad. Oh sure it started out all nice and atmospheric but then when it became a silly over-the-top slasher flick I lost interest. Maybe it was disappointments that it was not what I wanted it to be or expected it to be.

    Regardless I could never look at the old man the same way again. Before he was an annoying asshole now he was annoying asshole prankster.

  10. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I just checked and you already reviewed BLUE STEEL. Nevermind.

  11. My lone revenge did eventually come though.

    When they released the DTV The Hitcher II. I told the old man about it and he was dismayed. I laughed.

    A few years later our buddies at Platinum Dunes remade it. I shoved it in his face so hard. He was legitimately angry about the idea of remaking it. I laughed harder.

    When the shit(ier) remake came out and our library got a copy of it, I made sure to rent a double feature of The Hitcher II and The Hitcher remake and instead of using the self-checkout which had been installed by then I made sure to go to the old man and rent it out with him instead. He was angry. I laughed even harder.

    I went home and was stuck with two shitty movies to watch. I wasn’t laughing anymore.

    Who was the real monster in this story?
    Who was the one who got the worst comeuppance?

  12. THE HITCHER (original) has near-perfect camera placement in every single shot from beginning to end. Whoever the DP was did a kick-ass composition job. They also use the desert, the light and the color of the sky in interesting ways that support the initial split-personality theory, then switcheroos to support the opposite “reality” of the sitch, then switches one more time and breaks the fourth wall. I don’t know how well this comes off on the video screen but at the movies Howell *clearly* looks straight into the camera in that last shot. Chilling stuff.

    This is (as far as I know) the first time an American movie showed a dog licking the blood off a recently deceased dog, as well. Apparently a sticky with the board at the time.

    Oh, and Jeffrey DeMunn is _awesome_ in his 20 or so minutes. In fact, HITCHER has some of the most naturalistic acting of any action/thriller from the period.

    Lots and lots to like in this Avoriaz Festival grand winner. Can’t wait for BluRay.

    SirV

  13. I love the way Rutger Hauer’s character seems to be following some kind of weird logic that no mere mortal could ever figure out (he’s a lot like Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”). The biggest mistake in the remake was to turn the hitcher into, basically, just a scuzzy evil guy.

    My half-assed theory is that the film actually does take place inside the kid’s mind.

  14. “I want to like THE HITCHER more than I actually like it.”

    Dan Prestwich – Then don’t like it. Its not like we have you tied to a truck and threatening to make you into two Dan Prestwiches. One is enough, thank you very much.

    But yeah THE HITCHER was pretty cool, and I read somewhere once that Hauer claimed that of all the hundreds of movies he’s worked in theatres or for video, hes only done 20 or so he’s liked or proud to be part of. THE HITCHER was one of them.

    Where you going?

    Disneyland

  15. I don’t think he’s suggesting he feels he has to like it RRA. Don’t you have films like that? That have all these elements you love but when put together it just doesn’t work for you as much as you want it to?

  16. You know, I was kidding. I just have a slight pet peeve when people write about wanting to “like” something but they can’t.

    First off, either you like something or don’t. If you really want to like it, then you like. Or you don’t. You can elaborate of how something that fails has elements you kinda dig or whatever, but otherwise…yeah.

    Second, oh I’ve been there with that supposed scenario. Take AIR FORCE ONE. You have a DIE HARD formula, Han Solo the hero, Jim Gordon the villain, from the director of DAS BOOT and shit we even get a Jurgen Prochnow cameo.

    Yet its not worth anyone’s toss, or at least not me. Though I always laugh when I read or hear how Robert McKee brags that one of his students scripted AIR FORCE ONE.

    Other words, I rather have SUDDEN DEATH or shit even DROP ZONE than AFO. Though that one line is good: “Get off my plane!*”

    *=Which makes no sense, since that plane is owned by the taxpayers.

  17. Wasn’t in the sequel Jake Busey the re-incarnation of Hauer, killed Howell during the first 1/3 of the movie and then went after Kari Wuhrer? I only saw parts of it on TV.

  18. “First off, either you like something or don’t. If you really want to like it, then you like. Or you don’t. You can elaborate of how something that fails has elements you kinda dig or whatever, but otherwise…yeah.”

    Are things ever that clear cut? If you dig certain elements of a film, but not others, it’s not necessarily some clear cut answer of either “yes liked film” or “no didn’t like film”. I also find that logic too similar to Ebert’s popularisation of the thumbs up/down mode of film criticism, which I really rather hate.

  19. “Are things ever that clear cut?”

    Well, I thought AIR FORCE ONE was pretty clear cut.

    Maybe not so much with JACOB’S LADDER.

  20. Vern

    “By the way, do you guys think C. Thomas Howell could pass for a black guy? Not sure why that popped into my head.”

    Apparently… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091991/

    Can’t believe no else picked up on that – showing my age…

  21. Pass for a black guy? No.
    Pass for an insurgent? Maybe?

  22. If you really want to get creeped out, just listen to ‘Rider’s on the Storm’ by The Doors while driving at night. Goosebumps every time for me.

  23. Majestyk – I was thinking about seeing COHEN AND TATE soon. I’ve never seen that one and only really heard of it because of some guy a long time ago telling me it was one of the worst movies he ever saw. I read the box though and it sounds like something I could enjoy.

    RRA – coincidentally I have AIR FORCE ONE checked out from the video store right now. Never seen it before. Haven’t had a chance to watch it yet though.

    Telf – just joking around with that, I guess it was a more obscure reference than I thought. I haven’t seen that movie since 1986 I guess but I seem to remember he pretended to be black in order to get a scholarship! What a dick. I think he learned a valuable lesson at the end though so it wasn’t as racist as it sounds. Damn, I wonder if I should watch that again and review it?

    Thanks for the IMDB link though, I really had no idea Steve Miner directed that one.

  24. I think you’ll like it. It’s like a barebones B-movie version of The Hit. It’s got the ice-cold assassin and the reckless thug on a road trip with a mob witness, but without all the existentialism. Actually, a double feature of Cohen & Tate and The Hit would be pretty awesome to see how basically the same story can be told in two very different ways.

  25. ah – you got me. I seem to be in pedantic mode today.

    I remember Air Force One being a real downer for me as it was the first time I had a bad time at the movies. It’s not really that bad (it is bad though), but I think it was the beginning of the sheer fun of the experience of going to the movies starting to wear off a little bit for me. Prior to that film I’d always find something to enjoy in whatever piece of shit I was watching – somehow the magic had died. Certainly it was the first time I admitted to myself that I’d just wasted money.

    Cohen & Tate is the business though – had an awesome trailer too.

  26. Cohen & Tate: A two man army ready for anything. Except for a nine year old hell bent on survival!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qYmaAsppPs

  27. I wonder what other movies Hauer was proud of? I hope “Split Second” was one of them.

    I love “The Hitcher”. Haven’t seen it in a while.

    “Air Force One” sucks. Ford’s delivery of his speach at the begining is almost as soporific as his interviews.

  28. Talking about Hauer, I think it’s really sad that he didn’t have his big comeback yet. It looked really good in 2005, when he was in “Sin City” and “Batman Begins”, but suddenly he was gone again. Too bad.

  29. HIGHWAYMEN was enjoyable , a bit slow at times , but I liked the Plymouth vs Cadillac setup , the modified cars and the bad guy . Colm Feore’s Fargo is like a precursor to Stuntman Mike from Death Proof , a killer using his car like a weapon . I’ve got to try watching this 2 movies back to back someday.

  30. Hey Vern, I’m a long time lurker, first time poster. As always an excellent review, and this time I thought I’d chime in. For me The Hitcher was a classic “what the fuck is this?” discovery, where late afternoon channel surfing netting a guaranteed film to haunt my dreams. I haven’t read this on any posts yet, but I’m sure a lot of you—at least the ones who liked it—recognized what made this movie a thing to return to: the idea of a serial killer (or worse; man, one-handedly downing a chopper is something even Seagal hasn’t managed; someone should have serviced that thing sooner) fashioning the weapon of his own demise. The inherent creepiness of the idea stuck with me: either you give the killer what he wants, namely a worthy death, thereby letting him win, or you don’t, allowing him to go on and keep killing, in which case he also wins. Talk about your Catch 22.

    I remember running across an interview with Hauer a few years back where he talked about working on the film. Apparently one day Hauer was talking to Red about all the themes and subtexts in the screenplay, to which Red goes “Oh, really? Well, I was out to make a kick ass thriller” or something to that effect. Hauer then went to Harmon and said, “Eric has no idea what he’s created.” Which, in hindsight (the accident story was a heartbreaker; I grew up loving the Hitcher and Near dark), might encompass a lot of things about Eric Red.

    Mr Majestyk: I’d second checking out Cohen and Tate. The roadblock scene alone is worth your time, and I personally liked how the kid played the two characters off each other. However, there’s no way way in hell anyone—even Adam Baldwin—can spring out of a trunk like that.

    CallMeKermit: Yeah, I thought Highwaymen had merit too, especially the first half with the support groups; with that addition it’s like Fargo embodies every vicious traffic accident ever inflicted on a driver, thereby allowing them to come to terms with it via high-octane muscle car joists. Also, they way they design the car around his crippled body, like its an extension—very effective. However, I do think it ran out of steam towards the end.

  31. Bad Seed : Yeah , the last act in Highwaymen is not as strong as the rest of the movie , but as I said , for me a big plus are the cars . Here in Italy we don’t see a lot of this cars ( I own a Fiat 500 , the car Dennis Rodman is driving in Double Impact and Italy is still full of this little cars . Imagine this movie with one !) , so if there’s a movie with big American cars , count me in !

  32. Re: Hauer comeback

    Don’t forget how fucking awesome he is in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. At the time I also thought we were going to start seeing Hauer in bigger and better parts. Alas. Hopefully someday.

  33. Vern – Just a bit of warning advice about AFO.

    Its kinda like COMMAND PERFORMANCE I suppose, where the only cool twist to the Die Hard formula is only in the sheer gimmick itself (President) but in the actual execution, its blah like those by-the-book straightedge partners in those buddy cop pictures.

    In DH knock-offs, it aint UNDER SIEGE or SUDDEN DEATH, but it does beat MASTERMINDS.

    But on par with TOY SOLDIERS.

  34. It’s funny how when Air Force One came out, I was all, “God, action movies have gotten so pussified,” but now when I watch it I’m all, “Holy crap, blood!”

  35. I used to watch Soulman on a weekly basis back in the day.
    I love Ayre Gross.

  36. MrM – You know, I saw both AFO and SUDDEN DEATH on the same weekend about a month ago, but I dont remember blood in AFO or anything memorable. SUDDEN though had that death by industrial dish washer, skate sharpener, and unfortunately not meat slicer.

    Then again, maybe my negative reaction at AFO (not necessarily a bad film at all) is that I just didn’t buy the gimmick. I mean what US Presidents have we had (forget that “war hero” excuse that AFO uses) that one could buy him taking the plane back by force?

    Maybe Teddy Roosevelt for his sheer athleticism and a big fan of war he was…and Andrew Jackson, because he was a fucking psychopath. Also Lincoln, for he was his local Wrestling champion in his day.

    Obama/Dubya/Clinton/Carter/Reagan/Bush/Nixon/LBJ? Nah. Definately not FDR either, unless he was like Professor X or some shit in his wheelchair. Imagine that movie:

    “The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself…and me mother fucker!”

  37. Oh , and Cohen & Tate looks fantastic , and I’ve never heard of it before ! Thanks guys !

    Now , since Jake and geoffreyjar convinced me to watch D.O.A. yesterday , I’m going to re-watch Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2 ! Paul “Wiener Stretching” Anderson , here I come !

    ( Man I sure hope he pops up in the comments , someday….)

  38. I’m not saying Air Force One is any good, but when people get shot, little squirts of blood pop out instead of dust. It’s red and everything.

  39. AFO was produced before that whole CGI blood spatter trick came into effect.

    I do miss the squibs.

  40. This is one of those “perfect” films for me. Just great from beginning to end.

    Defiantly check out Highwaymen. I loved it.

  41. Air Force One is arguably my mother’s favorite action movie. I don’t know why. It’s really not all that great, despite it’s concept it’s pretty generic. The concept is kinda fun: Die Hard on a plane with McClane as the U.S. President vs Gary Oldman. For reason though it never did a whole hell of a lot for me and is another movie that I use to present my theory to people that Das Boot was a fluke and not a testament to Wolfgang Peterson’s talent.

  42. When the remake came out, I was tempted to ignore it and rent the original, which is what I usually do. But I never got around to it.

    Now, after reading your review, I remember why I couldn’t get too excited about revisiting this one. You’ve got it exactly as I remember it: great start, some good moments (hey, that’s not a french fry!), but then it gets too damned stupid and becomes a big joke. Doesn’t he shoot that helicopter down with a pistol, one-handed, out of a moving vehicle? Right.

    I firmly believe that explosions and car chases and comic-book fight scenes are not scary and don’t belong in horror films.

  43. I always thought Air Force One was Independence day with Russians instead of Aliens.
    I only saw it once and i hated it.

  44. I just want to plug that Scott Foy did a great rant where The Hitcher remake is really just a remake of The Terminator but they couldn’t get the rights to the Terminator.

  45. geoffreyjar – I have a pet muse why regarding your mother.

    I doubt shes an action junkie like the rest of us. I reviewed AFO for another message board and kinda kicked it in the groin. Some people replied saying how they quite enjoyed it, which surprised me. Then those same people, I looked at their usual thoughts on genres and cinema….low behold, they aren’t really action buffs, but casual viewers.

    Which probably why AFO flies better with casual viewers. Just a thought, no empirical porn data to back it up.

    Also, Petersen’s IN THE LINE OF FIRE was pretty fucking good too, so there’s two winners that his whole career coasted on. Isn’t his career still in the jailhouse after POSEIDON sank hard (though nearly recouped overseas, which means foreigners are partly to blame for silly pictures.)

    Off-topic, but Petersen is German…and Germans have a great fondness for President Kennedy. Why I bring this up? Maybe Petersen wanted a Ford line to compete with “Ich Bin Berliner”. But nothing can beat a guy seriously wanting to be a jelly doughnut.

  46. The whole casual-minded thing ran by my mind as well. In that case it is good. It’s entirely safe and doesn’t dare challenge you and when the movie thinks it’s challenging you (Gary Oldman’s monologue about how President Harrison Ford is no different from him) it then immediately makes the bad guy do something really bad to make sure you’re not sympathizing with him.
    -before anyone starts bitching at me, I am not a snob and I am in no way trashing casual movie-goers or their taste. There isn’t anything wrong with ‘safe’ cinema either (despite what the snobs will tell you).

    I agree about In The Line of Fire being a solid thriller. I was going to mention that one but if I did that would ruin my fluke theory and means I’d have to present my broken clock is right twice a-day theory which means we can expect no more decent movies out of him which is more depressing.

    He shouldn’t be black-listed, not with the way the industry is run today. The committee system was designed solely to make sure no one person is to blame, when a movie fails they blame the marketing department and fire those guys.

    For this I go to my example on this topic: McG
    In normal/lay-man logic he should not have a career anymore:
    -Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle greatly underperformed and was a big disappointment financially
    -Superman: Flyby was a massive-budgeted film that was to jump-start a trilogy/franchise. McG’s fear of flying (despite what AICN and Moriarty want you to believe, Flyby didn’t happen because of Mori’s script review (that he now all but retract) but because McG refused to board the plane to Australia -though at the time he insisted he refused to film an American icon overseas) cost Warner Bros. untold billions of dollars.
    -Warner Bros then hires him for Terminator 4 (!) and is a huge bomb and yet McG says he’s currently prepping T5 (though Bryan Singer was led to believe he was doing another Superman after his Returns underperformed, so maybe not)
    -After this excellent track record of hits that would make even Spielberg & Bay feel like Uwe Boll hacks, Disney hires him to direct a massive-budgeted adaptation/remake of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea…

    So no Peterson is just in-between projects at the moment, in fact the always reliable IMDB (ha!) states he has no less than three movies in development right now!

    Don’t know what Kennedy has to do with anything though…

  47. I think you hit AFO right on the head for what it is: An uninspired retread.

    As for your point about Petersen…I don’t totally exactly buy it, considering the blamestorming tradition of Hollywood. If a fuckup happens, a scapegoat is necessary…and the marketing PR isn’t always available.

    Consider when THE ISLAND flopped, and producer Parkes blamed that failure on McGregor and Scarlet Jo for “not big enough stars.” Which immediately begs the question: If so, why the fuck he and DreamWorks hire them then?

    Though thats nothing compared to when Bay compared himself to Zemeckis, Spielberg, and Kubrick. Which is pretty fucking egotistical, considering the some of the shit those guys flopped for: Zemeckis with his fun USED CARS, Kubrick with his underappreciated BARRY LYNDON, and the Beard* with EMPIRE OF THE SUN and MUNICH and A.I….

    That said, maybe you’re right about the committee mentality. Nobody wants their ass hanging in the wind. And yet, notice how long it took Bigelow to get another movie produced. What, 6-7 years? No way K-19 sinking didn’t have anything to do with that.

    *=Some would add 1941, but I didn’t like it. For some reason Europeans like it. More power to them I guess.

  48. My favorite ‘pass-the-buck’ ever was:

    Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life – the producer was asked why the movie tanked and he said because there was too-much air-brushing on the poster: “They air-brushed all the sexiness out of the poster and as a result air-brushed all the profits too!”

    honorable mention (from the same year to boot):
    Charlie’s Angles Full Throttle – Drew Barrymore and fellow producers (after the movie was a confirmed disappointment) squarely blamed Demi Moore for the drop in attendance. Citing that she ‘…didn’t do her part to market the film.’ apparently Moore didn’t do too many interviews or something.

    True, sometimes a film’s failure gets public and personal. But that will apparently only happen if the person (usually producer) doing the blaming didn’t get along with whoever the scapegoat is (usually actors). If they got along then it’s marketing’s fault but it’s never never never the producers fault (thanks to the committee system -can’t fire everyone can you?).

    Also true is that sometimes a director goes on ‘time out’ but as per my McG example, even that seems to be going by the way-side and again I think if that does happen to a director it is more because he didn’t get along with the producers or went over budget and/or schedule.

    -Michael Bay being egotistical?! No way in all his interviews and commentaries he was the very model of modesty! I do not believe you sir!

    –Glad to finally find someone else likes Barry Lyndon. It’s arguably my favorite Kubrick. I’m not his biggest fanboy, respect his films more than like, but I adore Lyndon. Yet when I talk to art house snobs (another name for Kubrick fans) they always denounce Lyndon as one of his lesser works.

    —Not a big 1941 fan either. Some good comedy beats (Robert Stack is hilarious for one + Mifune, Lee, Pickens all in the same scene together?! How could that fail?) but when the movie is like a billion hours with 85 plot-lines and only two are good, it matters not.

  49. A lesser Kubrick is still better than most people’s “best.” Hell his second picture KILLER’S KISS, a nicely made B-boxing/gangster melodrama, is better than most of Antoine Fuqua’s filmography.

    And yeah, you’re right about 1941. I mean Zemeckis, Spielberg, and Milius together…three (at times) good filmmakers, and together we get this? Still I like how originally before the Beard came on, Milius had it titled THE NIGHT THE JAPS ATTACKED. Imagine if that had been used. Maybe the problem with 1941 was how its like something college kids cook up in a group session…and it looks it.

  50. Let’s be clear, CHARLIE’S ANGELS FULL THROTTLE may have underperformed financially, but it overperformed artistically.

  51. We’ll just have to agree to disagree there vern….

    Though I walked out of Full Throttle 45-minutes after it started as where I walked out 30-minutes after the first one started so congratulations McG, you made one of the few sequels that is superior to the first one.

  52. Why would you go see the sequel to a movie you walked out of? That’s like eating the doggy bag of the meal that gave you food poisoning.

    But I agree with Vern. The Charlie’s Angels movies are great fun. McG should stick with what he’s good at.

  53. When you’re with a group of people and you get out-voted and you wish to stay in your group, you don’t have much choice.

    I don’t hang out with that group anymore.

    Your opinion is different than mine. Which means you’re wrong.

    -speaking of which vern I never asked you this because I didn’t want to be an asshole but since we’re on this subject and I’m in an I dont care mood… why is it you give the Angels movie a pass when they have everything you hate about Bay’s movies but times a billion? Avid farts, constant winking at the audience, stupid in a bad way, etc.

  54. A few years ago I chose movies over friends. Your story proves that I made the right call.

  55. Don’t want to answer for Vern, but I can totally see why someone would give Charlie’s Angels a pass yet hate on Bay.
    1) The hand to hand fights are exciting and well-choreographed; you can totally tell what’s going on. They tried hard to make the fights “grittier” in part 2 with more bones breaking and blood splatter, it didn’t quite work, but it was still fun.
    2) The dirt bike scene in part 2 is a minor classic – it’s long and drawn out and feels like some weird deleted scene from a Star Wars movie.
    3) The humor (mostly) works, at least in comparison to “mom’s stoned” and “giant robot balls”, etc… For some reason Drew Barrymore riding around on a kid’s bike wearing a Stone Cold Steve Austin Tshirt was hilarious to me.
    4) The T&A is awesome. I know Demi Moore is probably just as plastic and artificial now as Megan Fox, but the camera loves her in part 2, as it does Cameron Diaz’s famous “swirling ass” scene. Ask yourself: could you masturbate to a Michael Bay movie? Answer: Maybe some shots of Megan Fox in TF1 and Tea Leoni’s legs in Bad Boys, but that’s it. Could you to one of the Charlie’s Angles movies? The answer is you probably already have.
    5) McG knows how to do a dumb movie right. Both Charlie’s Angels know they’re disposable bubble gum fluff – they’re light, breezy, and under 2 hours. There’s outtakes and car wash music videos over the credits for chrissakes. Bay would have put in Iraq parallels, shots of coffins draped in American flags, montages of kids playing and apple pie and shit, and made the movies 3 hours long.

  56. I’m not a fan of the CA movies, but unlike many of Bay’s movies they’re not meanspirited.

    That said I do think they’re kind of a precursor to the Friedberg/Seltzer wave of “comedies” in so far as they seem to equate “playing dress up” with “acting” and “comedic inspiration” (look! It’s Drew Barrymore with a moustache! Hahahahahahaha!)

  57. Drew Barrymore + kung fu = awesome. No matter what else McG ever does, he’ll always know that he was the guy who brought these two seemingly disparate elements together for the first time. He’s like the guy who invented the PB&J.

  58. I don’t see C’s A’s and Transformers as being similar movies at all. I think TRANSFORMERS is a movie that wants to be a big awe-inspiring sci-fi action epic but also funny. It wants to be about robots but also about this kid. And you know why I think it fails as a serious story, as an action movie and as a comedy, why the robots are painful to look at and the kid is annoying.
    As much of a scattershot pop culture celebration as the C’s As movies are I think tonally they’re pretty focused – they NEVER expect you take them seriously at all, they are very deliberately silly from beginning to end. I do like the action scenes, I know what’s going on and love their crazy Hong Kong style logic – shootout in midair during a dirtbike race, crashing through the ceiling and rail-surfing on a piece of the broken roof, etc.
    As I have said before I think both Bill Murray and Bernie Mac’s talents are wasted, but otherwise the McG sense of humor works for me, the way he has them constantly wearing outlandish outfits, making eyes at the speaker that their boss’s voice comes out of, badly approximating a Moonwalk to celebrate “kickin your ass,” the helicopter that comes out of the back of the truck that falls off the bridge during the thrilling Mongolian prison break sequence or whatever it was at the beginning of part 2, Crispin Glover’s weird hair fetish and the use of “Smack My Bitch Up” as his theme song.
    I also think the whole feel comes out of the personalities of the characters, it makes sense that the whole thing is so light and ridiculous. And before that movie I don’t think I’d seen a movie that had that feel at all, it was very unique. (Since then I think Joseph Kahn captured a similar tone well with TORQUE, and nobody else.)

  59. Vern I agree with you on the Charlie Angel’s movies, even though it took me a couple of viewings to really ‘get’ the tone of those movies. But Torque? I plain don’t get Torque. To me it seems like they were trying to copy the macho sensibilities of the Fast and Furious movies but couldn’t figure it out.

  60. Mr. Majestyk

    I used to choose movies over people. I use to be very antisocial.

    So I became more outgoing and got expelled from school, almost got in trouble with the law, used by numerous people, went broke, learned not many people liked me after all.

    Now I’m back to watching movies over being with people and being antisocial again (though not nearly as bad as before). Also I’m back to not being in trouble and having (some) money. I’m still miserable but slight less so because now there’s no one to let me down or bring to life my fears about other people. Like I said I’m still depressed but at least it is more on my own accord.

    vern

    Alright I can better see where you’re coming from now, I will no longer question your sexuality I guess is the rule of the internet.

    As someone who loved GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra, I watch the Angels and feel it should be up my alley (it’s way over-the-top silliness) but goddamn if they do not annoy the shit of me. I guess it stems from me hating the characters. I seriously disliked them (the characters not the actors whom I don’t know squat about). Also as stated before, I was turned off the jokey tone from the get-go. As that asshole Tim Buckley says “It’s okay. It’s not for you.”

    -Before CallMeKermiT or vern or anyone of yous recommend it, I tried rewatching both Charlie’s Angels earlier this year in preparation for Terminator: Salvation… after a few minutes of each it wasn’t happening (never did get around to see We Are Marshalls which I meant to pre-T4)

  61. Brendan: My theory about “Torque” was always that it was written and planned as “serious” movie (I mean, it was from the same producers of the “Fast & The Furious” series), but then the director read the script and said: “Ah, fuck that. This is ridiculous, so I make a live action cartoon out of it!”

  62. the only thing i remember from the remake is the absolute worst use ever of Closer by Nine Inch Nails during a big action scene. other than that it was fairly forgettable, but not too terrible if i remember right.

  63. that last statement wasn’t entirely clear. Worst Musical Choice during an Action Sequence Ever. there we go. needed to drive that home.

  64. Yeah, Torque is totally under-rated – it’s what Michael Bay films should be. While on the subject of wacky tone, I think the main reason most people didn’t like CA2 as much as CA1 (including me) is that the tone does get a bit too serious with Demi’s character arc. The whole backstory/betrayal thing seemed out of place for such a fluffy movie. Oh, and the fact that the plot hinged on her reveal as the villain when she was already advertised AS THE VILLAIN made it kind of a chore. That’s what was kind of cool about part 1 was the first time you see it you’re like ‘great, Tim Curry as the villain AGAIN’ before they pull the switcheroo on you.

  65. As somebody that absolutely loves Charlie’s Angels, McG deserves to be anally raped with a baseball bat. The best way to do it is to jam it in really fast but then go really slow. And then do that for 90 minutes and you’ve got what the experience of watching Full Throttle is like.

    I mean, does EVERY scene need to be normal speed followed up by slow mo? Fuck that movie.

  66. I have to admit I am skeptical, but if you swear that having a baseball bat forcefully inserted into my anus would be just like the experience I had watching CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE then I guess I’ll give it a shot. Though it would be great to get your assurance that that has been your experience in the past. Just to make doubly sure. I don’t want to have a bat rammed way up inside me and then discover that the two experiences are in fact very different. You understand.

  67. Lawrence, if you are already annoyed by the use of slow motion in Charlie’s Angels, then stay away from 300! Because that one is REALLY how you described Charlie’s Angels. (300 would just run 45 minutes without all the slow motion shots.)

  68. You know who knows slo mo perfectly?

    DePalma.

    If you want to know how and when to execute that shit, watch his stuff.

  69. Jareth Cutestory

    August 18th, 2009 at 9:42 am

    RRA – I always figured the character of the president in Air Force One was meant to evoke
    John F. Kennedy.

    “Ich bin ein Asskicker.”

  70. That’s a fascinating thought. Does tie into that German thing I mentioned earlier, and well both JFK and Ford’s character were war heroes.

    I just hope Ford’s character didn’t have his speechwriter pen a book for him, take the credit, and win the Pulitzer. And considering one of his ex-wives scripted E.T……

    I’m just saying.

  71. It seems to me that the American cultural imagination has fashioned a warm and fuzzy place
    that is derived from the potential of what Kennedy might have accomplished. It’s not like Air Force One
    or that Kevin Kline film where he plays a schmoe who becomes president are actual depictions of
    Kennedy, it’s just that I think there is something wistful or idealistic surrounding the role of president
    that surfaces in particular films. It’s like the hopes and dreams that were dashed by the assassination
    live on in some Capraesque film vocabulary that pops up from time to time in American cinema.
    Air Force One is obviously an action film, but the heroism of Ford’s character is almost maudlin in its
    integrity and trustworthiness.

    As far as the myth of JFK is concerned, I think films like Air Force One or that film where Michael Douglas
    is the president say a lot more about Americans’ dreams and anxieties than Stone’s JFK or that Nine Days
    film do.

  72. I actually saw HIGHWAYMEN once years ago, it was pretty darn terrible

  73. Ford in AF1 is every democrat’s dream: a liberal who kicks ass. He’s the best of both worlds, and that’s why everybody’s mom likes the movie.

  74. The Hitcher has been on my to watch list for a very long time, and seeing a Vern review made me finally go out and watch it (so I would then read the review without being spoiled).

    Wow. The Hitcher is almost a perfect example of whatever the hell genre it is.

    It’s like Dario Argento directing a sequel to Duel or something.

    I like how there’s all this weird coded supernatural / surreal subtext that invites you to interpret what you are seeing in all kinds of non-literal ways – because this is not a realistic film by any stretch and it damn well knows it.

    Every time we see Rutger, he is wiping fluid off his face. Rain at the start, sweat (presumably) during the day and finally C T Howell’s spit. When CT Howell finally spits in Rutger’s face you get the sense that some kind of Donnie Darko time loop has been completed and that the spit is the reason he’s been wiping his face all along… or something…

    Also, nearly every time we see Rutger, we have just seen C T Howell doze off. Some Nightmare on Elm Street style implications here. Is the whole thing a dream? Is Rutger a dream and C T Howell is actually doing all the killing Fight Club style? Definitely Rutger’s incredible feats of murder exist outside conventional reality, and made me think of Argento “dream logic” in a big way.

    The other creepy theme that’s going on is it feels like Rutger is trying to drive C T Howell crazy because he’s grooming him as a replacement. I fully expected to see an ending where he’d been driven nuts and had become the new Hitcher. But that’s not how it turned out. Even though the film resolves in an “obvious” way, you are still left with a severely damaged C T Howell and you can still imagine him snapping and becoming the new hitcher after the film ends…

    Also the cinematography was great as has been said, and the SCORE was effing brilliant. It’s mostly jusy creepy synth chords and hardly ever ventures in to either horror score or action score territory. Enhances the sense of surreal detachment greatly.

    Phantasm. That’s another film this reminded me of in a tangential way.

    Man, what an awesome and unique film. So glad I finally watched it.

  75. Andrew: “Dario Argento’s sequel to Duel”–ha ha YES, exactly. : )

    Robert Harmon used to be a still photographer, which goes a long way to explaining the superb photography and images of the desert. And he did get great performances–not just Hauer, but Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, as mentioned.

    Hitcher was apparently inspired by Duel and the song “Riders On The Storm”. The opening scenes are pretty much “Riders On The Storm”, and the end is very much Duel, right down to the image of the traumatized hero silhouetted against the sun. Robert Harmon, meanwhile, seems to have taken a close look at Duel, The Sugarland Express, and The Road Warrior. The two highway patrol cars flipping over and rolling down the road in synchronized tandem–that remains astonishing no matter how many times you see it.

    (Interesting sidenote: Jim Morrison actually made a short film about a hitchhiker in the desert; he played the hitchhiker, and it includes at one point a scene where he makes a phone call and says he’s killed someone. Wonder if Red ever saw it at a film festival or something.)

    And I was also glad to see someone mention No Country For Old Men–rewatching The Hitcher recently, I had the same thought, that now it almost feels like it’s taking place in the same universe as No Country For Old Men.

    Anyway, a unique and remarkable film, probably one of the best horror movies of the 80s.

  76. This movie scared the shit out of me. And weiner should probably be “Wiener”, but, then, that means “citizen of Wien”, aka Vienna.

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