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Freeway is a hilarious mix of shock and fun


I didn't catch Freeway in the theaters, but in my state, we sometimes don't get the chance to see them. I believe that this is one of them. I heard about this film from a lot of trailers, word of mouth, and a certain movie fan who asked me to review it. When I saw the trailers, I really wanted to see it. It looked like a good movie, but I didn't realize that it was a comedy, and a dark comedy it certainly is. It appears that over the years of watching them, I have grown to love dark comedies.

And this one is no exception. It is very funny, yet at the same time it is shockingly realistic. Sometimes you will turn on the TV and get talk shows where people talk about experiences such as the one in Freeway. Freeway stars Reese Witherspoon (who I first saw in Fear) as a 15 year old Vanessa. In the opening scene, we see her trying to read 'The cat drinks milk." After school, she gets a ride home from her boyfriend Chopper (Bokeem Woodbine) to find her mom (Amanda Plummer) selling her body outside their apartment. She also gets hit on by her stepfather (Michael T. Weiss) after getting high.

The police bust the mom and stepdad for prostitution and drug abuse. A youth officer is called in to take Vanessa to a youth home, but Vanessa escapes through quick thinking and by handcuffing the officer to her bed. She politely leaves the keys to the cuffs on the TV and takes her car. Vanessa, who is dressed in a red jacket and carrying a red basket, drives to visit her grandmother. If you can't tell, the movie is an updated version of Little Red Riding Hood. On her way to visit her grandmother, she comes upon the "big bad wolf" or, in this case, Bob Wolverton (Keifer Sutherland). Her car breaks down while on the freeway and he pulls over to help. He has the perfect persona: a nice, clean-shaven guy who is a psychiatrist for young boys. He agrees to drive her as far as LA. She trusts him and gets into his car.

On the way, she starts to tell him things that she wouldn't even tell her boyfriend. However, soon the conversation takes a turn from helpful to frightening. He starts talking about raping her dead body, and she realizes that he is the I-5 Killer that she learned about earlier that day. She cuts off her ponytail and threatens to kill her. However, she outsmarts him and jumps in the backseat of the car, pulling out her gun that she got from her boyfriend, which she was supposed to sell for money. After asking him if he believed that Jesus Christ was his Savior, she shoots him in the neck and empties the gun into him. She leaves him for dead and throws up. Then she takes his car and drives away.

But of course, somehow, the wolf gets to a hospital and manages to survive, although he looks hideous after the reconstructive surgery. He has an evil smile and a head brace with one of his eyes patched up. He speaks through a hole in his chest with smoke coming out of his shirt. My favorite line of the film is when Vanessa sees him for the first time after. She says, "Holy s**t... Look who got beat with the ugly stick!" It's a very funny line, and appropriate. All of this, of course, is leading up to the inevitable and predictable conclusion. But I guess they couldn't have done it without it. Still, it's a good ending to the film.

Freeway is definately a comedy, but there are moments that make you wince out of shock. There are also lots of unpredictable moments in the film, and most of them are very funny. Some people will be turned off by the film because of its shock value, but it's all in good fun and it works well. It kept me entertained throughout the entire picture. However, the movie does have some plot inconsistencies and a few things that didn't have to be in the movie. Still the movie has many merits, especially the talent involved in the film.

Reese Witherspoon gives a powerful performance that could rival any Oscar nominee from 1995. It probably wouldn't have won her one, but it's still a terrific performance. She portrayed the character just right and got the accent down perfectly. It's a big change from her performance in 96's Fear, but she was good even in that. Watch for Witherspoon to become very famous someday. Keifer Sutherland gives one of his best villain performances in a long time. Even after the accident, he continues to chase after Vanessa. It's a very believable performance. Amanda Plummer (The Fisher King) has a very short part, as does Michael T. Weiss (TV's The Pretender) but both are good. And yes, there is Brooke Shields who gives a very good performance. I haven't seen her for a long time in film. Dan Hedaya and Wolfgang Bodison play cops investigating the case. Bodison's character was confusing for me because it was hard for me to understand what his mind was thinking. Was he getting turned on by hearing Vanessa tell her story? I don't know. I couldn't tell. But overall the entire cast was very top-notch.

Freeway is rated R for strong lurid violence and sexual dialogue, some sexual situations, drug content, language, and brief nudity. Matthew Bright, the writer and director, has produced many good films, such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and creates another good one with Freeway. Most of the comedy comes from the situations, but Witherspoon has a natural comic talent, and can twist lines to make them sound funnier than they were supposed to be. She is the highlight of the film, and I know I will watch it again just to watch Witherspoon's performance.

***1/2 out of ****

Reviews by Boyd Petrie
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