Saturday, November 06, 2010

FREEWAY (1996)

I originally tracked FREEWAY down because of my love for Brittany Murphy in the wake of flicks like the underrated actioner DRIVE and the slasher flick CHERRY FALLS. Not your run-of-the-mill teen starlet, Murphy had an impressive acting range to match her sex appeal – too bad it all ended so tragically. She's only in this post-modern take on Little Red Riding Hood for a few minutes, but even then she still makes an impression as a scarred, horny reformatory inmate.

Instead, this one is Reese Witherspoon's show from start to finish. She stars as Vanessa Lutz, a piece of poor white trash whose Momma (Amanda Plummer) gets pinched turning tricks while her crack-smoking stepdaddy (TV's 'The Pretender') puts the moves on her in their motel bedroom. With Momma and "Daddy" on their way to the pokey, Vanessa ditches the woman from child services, grabs a gun from her boyfriend (Bokeem Woodbine), and heads on out to see Grandma (Kitty Fox) at her trailer park home.

Things don't go the way they planned and the next thing you know she's fending off Bob Wolverton (a pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland), a harmless-looking youth counselor who just might be a notorious serial killer.

Honestly, to say much more about FREEWAY would be to give away too many of its violent, funny twists and turns. Writer/director Matthew Bright's script is chock full of whacked-out characters, disturbing visuals (the scene of a post-attack Sutherland being wheeled into court by wife Brooke Shields is a thing to behold), and jarring mood swings that'll make you sit up and take notice.

And Witherspoon, who recently found herself at the top of the summer box office heap thanks to LEGALLY BLONDE, continues to get high marks in our book. This tough-talking trailer-park gal is a far cry from her role as Tracy Flick in ELECTION, but it comes off as no less genuine.

Buy FREEWAY at Amazon. You can read this and hundreds more reviews like it at Exploitation Retrospect: The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media.

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