By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Stolen disk in car.
Earl Windom (Richard Jaeckel) has created an experimental automobile that can go up to 325 mph while running on nothing but tap water. He’s testing out the vehicle in the remote desert when he comes into contact with Quint (Tommy Lee Jones) a thief working for the F.B.I. who’s stolen a disk with incriminating evidence. To avoid others who are chasing after him he hides the disk inside the car’s back bumper. When Earl and his team drive away with the prototype vehicle on a truck bed Quint follows them to L.A. in order to retrieve the disk, but gets thwarted when the group stops off at a posh restaurant where the car is stolen by professional car thieves led by Nina (Linda Hamilton). Nina takes the car to a high-rise building owned by Ed (Robert Vaughan) where it’s stored in an underground parking garage that’s inaccessible to the public at large. Quint then teams up with Earl and eventually Nina to find a way to get to the car and ultimately the disk despite Ed using every maneuver he can to stop them.
The film was produced by New World Pictures, which delivered some good movies, but also some low budget ones that were devoid of anything original and completely dependent on mindless action to make it work. This one starts out like it’s part of the latter ones by appearing to have been filmed on video and then transferred to film, but the script, written by John Carpenter, is well paced and has enough twists to keep it engaging. Director Harley Cokeliss captures the wintertime desert landscape of eastern California well and the film does feature an interesting climax where Sam and Nina are unable to drive the car out of the building, which culminates with them being forced to drive it at high speeds inside a limited space, which is something you don’t see too often.
The supporting cast helps, which includes former punk rocker Lee Ving as a bad guy and retired football player Bubba Smith as a federal agent who shares a love-hate partnership with Quint. It’s also fun to see William Sanderson, best known for playing Larry, the talking-half of the Darryl brothers in the ‘Newhart’ TV-show, playing a deaf mute though he exits too early and his death scene, where he gets hit by a car which causes his body to spring up high in the air, looked cartoonish. It was also disappointing seeing talented character actor Keenan Wynn, in his final film appearance, strapped to a hospital bed with nothing much to say or do.
As for the leading actors I really liked Linda Hamilton, in some ways better than in Terminator, though the black wig that she wears at the beginning, which she thankfully gets rid of, was close to unbearable. Jones on the other-hand is an acquired taste. Some people love him though to me he seems too detached and not emotionally into his part enough to make it entertaining, or for the viewer to particularly care what happens to him.
Many fans of this film will list the car chase that occurs in downtown L.A. at night as their favorite scene, but I felt this was a letdown as the prototype vehicle, driven by Hamilton, is able to drive through the busy streets at high speeds, but manages somehow not to hit anyone. Someone not used to driving a car at such speeds would most likely lose control of it, or been hit by another car when it continuously goes through one red light after another.
The finale is contrived as Jones and Hamilton are seen care-freely walking away from the damage and chaos that they caused without having to answer to the police even though I’d think they’d have a lot of explaining to do before they’d be allowed to leave the scene. The film though as a whole is well done for what it’s worth. It’s nothing profound, or intellectual, but as a basic action flick it adequately delivers.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: January 10, 1986
Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
Director: Harley Cokeliss
Studio: New World Pictures
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, Tubi, YouTube
Thanks for your review which brings back fond memories of this film.