Combustible Celluloid
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With: Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, Wolfgang Bodison, Dan Hedaya, Amanda Plummer, Brooke Shields, Michael T. Weiss, Bokeem Woodbine, Guillermo Diaz, Brittany Murphy, Alanna Ubach, Susan Barnes, Conchata Ferrell, Tara Subkoff
Written by: Matthew Bright
Directed by: Matthew Bright
MPAA Rating: R for strong lurid violence and sexual dialogue, some sexual situations, drug content and language
Running Time: 102
Date: 01/01/1996

Freeway (1996)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Wolves N the Hood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate 1996 for having so many great roles for actresses; and I'm not just talking weepie, "oh I have to make a decision between my childhood and adulthood" kind of roles that put people to sleep. I'm talking the good kind of juicy, kick-ass roles that men mostly get. The kind of roles that haven't been around in Hollywood since before the code that Barbara Stanwyck used to get. Here are a few: Frances McDormand in Fargo, Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in Bound, and even Pamela Anderson Lee in Barb Wire.

Reese Witherspoon's 16 year old white trash character in Freeway, Vanessa, is probably the most unlikely of all these heroines and villainesses. It's a fierce and energetic performance, and develops into a full, three-dimensional character. She has a big heart that wants to believe the best of everything, but if it's betrayed, even once, watch out. We're talking explosions of fury that would make Al Pacino feel meek.

Freeway was a big hit at the Roxie theatre for a long time, but I missed it there. With Oliver Stone listed as a producer, I was expecting a shallow, mean-spirited movie and I wasn't ever in the mood for it. I rented the laserdisc months later and was pleasantly surprised.

Freeway tells a new, twisted version of the Little Red Riding Hood story. Vanessa's parents are arrested for drugs and prostitution (the mother played wonderfully by Amanda Plummer), and her boyfriend, Chopper, (she calls him her fiancee) is shot. She begins to drive to the home (actually, the trailer) of her grandmother, whom she's never met. Her car dies almost immediately and she is picked up by the Big Bad Wolf, in the form of "Bob Wolverton" (Kiefer Sutherland, in the best role of his entire career). The plot is very delicious, and although I'm tempted, I don't want to give away any more.

Writer and director Matthew Bright makes an incredible debut, slipping close to the Tarantino-ripoff genre, but rising above it. His characters are crisp and fascinating, and the movie has a great anything-can-happen B-movie excitement feel to it. Unfortunately, his commentary on the laserdisc's second track is less than inspired. ("This is a movie about women's panties" he says. What?)

Brooke Shields also has the best role of her career as Bob's wife, Mimi. The excellent score is by Danny Elfman, who is getting better and better as a composer, and Tito Larriva.

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