For a Few Furious Road Movies More
When Peter introduced 10 really furious and entertaining road movies a few days back, I said to myself, road movies have always been one of my all time favorite sub genres. What road movies accomplish is a certain balance between movement and permanence. There is a plethora of locations, but at the same time, the location stays the same: it can be a car, a motorcycle or a trailer, which in effect becomes the central set piece, even though the environment changes. Or it could be a series of motel rooms, a bus or a train – train movies might be called a sub genre of road movies, i.e. rail-road movies. At the same time, many characteristics could be modified so that a road movie ceases to match most people’s definition of a road movie. For example, limiting the environment to just one city (example: Collateral) or substituting motorized vehicles with stage coaches (example: Stagecoach). Chase movies (example: Vanishing Point) or biker flicks (example: Easy Rider) are also road movies, but of a different nature. In a way, road movies are more about stylistic devices anyway than they are about pavement and vehicles.
Here are a few road movies that are very dear to my heart and make for some fantastic, mad, furious, entertaining movie evenings…
BREAKDOWN, 1997, imdb
Kurt Russell stars in this movie that takes place less on a road than on the back-roads. A couple’s car breaks down, and in the middle of nowhere, truckers and rattlesnakes being the only inhabitants, the man’s wife disappears, and he sets out to get her back. It is a fight man against desperation, by the book, but not unlike Duel, or even The Hitcher.
Furiosity: medium | Buy DVD from Amazon.com
Mad Max, 1979, imdb
Not including this classic would be a crime, and even though it is unfair to the rest of the movies on this list, it is such a quintessential road movie, it needs to be here. Mad Max set new standards, showed a new wild side of Australian cinema, and established Mel Gibson as an ascendant star. Cool cars, beautiful outbacks, winding roads, motorcycles, anarchy… and a man whose young family is taken away from him. Enter madness.
The Hitcher (1986), imdb
One of the most insane villains in my memory is the hitcher depicted by Rutger Hauer in the movie of the same title. A sinister cat and mouse game on the road ensues after a young kid in the middle of nowhere, picks up the wrong man. I dig the insanity of the movie, and the consistency with which the movie takes place in the open, which brings the element of “nowhere to hide” and plays with it.
Kalifornia, 1993, imdb
When Brad Pitt was still doing one weirdo role after the other, and Juliette Lewis was hot material, this film was made. A writer played by David Duchovny and his girl go on a trip to research serial killers, and they pick up a hitchhiking couple… enter nightmare… what starts off as a social collision movie evolves into a psychological thriller and character study that is as much a road movie as it is a crime flick.
3.000 Miles to Graceland, 2001, imdb
I am a bit torn on this one, and Peter would not put it into the road movie category, but for me nonetheless it feels like an on the road movie, for the reasons I lined up above, namely the atmosphere of being on the move, and the constantly changing, but still similar settings. I have jumped into Kevin Costner‘s defense before (see that blogpost here), and named this movie as one great example. He doesn’t exactly shine, as it is more a Kurt Russel vehicle, but it delivers on the rock and roll, the pop culture, the violence and the grittiness, even though it was made by a b-movie director who hasn’t much to show for.
Furiosity: medium | Buy DVD from Amazon.com
Perdita Durango (1997), imdb
This was one of the movies I had in mind when I started Furious Cinema. A movie that pulls out all the stops and takes you on a wild, furious ride, throws all kinds of hilarious shit at you – all the while sounding great and looking cool. Perdita Durango is the story of one crazy-ass couple, satanists, rapists, gangsters. They kidnap and abuse teenagers, perform weird occult rites on people, and enjoy their outlaw lives. Throw in some smuggling, a cop, drugs, lots of sex, crazy violence, black humor, more sex, wild music and the wild southwest as a location. A movie as good as they come. Clearly nineties and not safe to watch around family, I wholeheartedly recommend you give this flick a chance, hopefully in a somewhat uncensored version. This is a flick years before Javier Bardem got famous, and when Rosie Perez still looked acceptably hot and kinky.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005), imdb
Rob Zombie‘s follow up to his reimagination of 60s horror movies, House of a 1000 corpses, is at the same time a completely different type of film. While Corpses was an exercise in style, basically a music video clip version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Devil’s Rejects is a tough, violent and rock and roll ride, a semi-road movie that pits characters of the past against the forces of the present. The characters are dated, and their fates sealed, but they still manage to wreak havoc. Zombie brings out the Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes, throws in some hot pants and lots of guns. Quite a wild ride if you ask me, and one hell of an enjoyable edgy flick if you accept it for what it is.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), imdb
This debut crime/heist flick by Michael Cimino is in many ways also a lovely road movie. Two unlikely characters team up to rob banks and run from the coppers, through the American west, a modern western so to say, horses traded for convertible cars. I loved the atmosphere and heart that Cimino put into this one, the melancholy and the 70s spirit. It feels almost as if the road was what kept them going, as if it was the goal already. They being constantly on the run from the law, one might assume that they know there is no real way out, and if you have seen the movie, you guess what I am getting at. A wonderful wonderful movie. Click here to read Peter’s review
Furiosity: medium | Buy DVD from Amazon.com (out of print)
Pierrot le Fou (1965), imdb
French new wave movies are always a bone for contention. Most of them are considered to be milestones of cinema, yet not every viewer can appreciate the sometimes slow and meandering narrative, or the lack of music, or the playfulness or self-indulgence. While I personally did not like Band of Outsiders at all, I loved Breathless, and I also liked Pierrot le Fou, which is such a gem, and a story about life and love and freedom and joy of movement. Belmondo, playing a middle class man tired of the bording life, and Karina playing a nanny on the run from terrorist hitmen, have such great chemistry in this often overlooked classic by Jean-Luc Godard.
Boxcar Bertha (1972), imdb
This is actually a rail road movie. Roger Corman and Martin Scorsese made this fascinating flick about union railroad workers and their adventures travelling the rails, fighting against railroad managment injustice and eventually slipping into crime. Bertha (Barbara Hershey) and Bill Shelly (David Carradine) fall in love and form the core of a loyal little gang. I loved this movie because it was both romantic of the times as well as depicting the furious injustices and the tragic fates of a few small wheels in the big machine. Corman and Scorsese put a lot of heart into this flick.
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (1997), imdb
Remade a few years back as “The Bucket List”, this one is actually considered to be one of the greatest German pop culture movies of the 90s, the German Pulp Fiction even. Two young men with terminal diseases break out of the hospital to do go see the ocean before they die. On the way, they want to do as many things they haven’t done as they can. Pretty quickly, the police are on their heels and they shoot their way to the Netherlands. Til Schweiger and Jan Josef Liefers, both famous German actors, do one heck of a job, and the cameo by Rutger Hauer is an amazing scene. The movie is absolutely worth every minute, and even though the DVD is a bit hard to get if you’re outside Europe, it does have a pretty good English dub that sounds like the real deal. You will probably grin throughout the movie as it does not take itself serious most of the time and the sources of inspiration for it are often quite obvious.
— Thanks for reading, my friends. We will be back soon with some holiday shopping recommendations and post-apocalyptic cinema… stay tuned