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Roadgames

Posted by martinteller on July 21, 2013

Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) is a truck driver, hauling pork that’s become precious cargo in the middle of meat packers’ strike.  But he can’t shake this queer hunch about a man (Grant Page) in a green van he saw acting strangely.  When he hears news about young women disappearing, his suspicions multiply.  Quid picks up a hitchhiker named Pamela (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the two try to piece together the mystery of the green van.

Well, I won’t be the first to say that this movie is “Rear Window on wheels”.  In fact, practically every other review I looked at made the same remark or some variation of it.  The comparison is impossible to avoid.  Director Richard Franklin — whose next film would be Psycho II — makes no attempt to hide the influence, placing a film magazine with Hitchcock’s face on it in Quid’s cab.  Quid even refers to Pamela as “Hitch”.  The music, by Queen’s Brian May, evokes Bernard Herrmann and the shots are often clearly cribbed from or influenced by the master of suspense.  As Quid himself becomes a prime suspect, it recalls any number of Hitchcock’s “wrong man” films, particularly Frenzy.

But as an imitation (or homage, if you want to be more polite) it’s not too shabby.  There are some very neat shots, as when the taillights of the green van line up with Quid’s pupils.  The humor isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either.  The suspense could be built better.  Most of it is loaded in the second half of the film, making the first half feel a bit lethargic.  But there are fine moments.

Keach does a good job carrying the load of the film.  For much of the running time, he’s voicing his thoughts aloud, which is handled by having him talking to his pet dingo, Boswell.  It’s a bit of a clunky device… sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But Keach manages to sell the concept of an imaginative, curious trucker with a penchant for poetry successfully enough.  Curtis (another Hitchcock connection, the daughter of Janet Leigh), although rightfully second billed, is only in it for about half an hour.  There’s a hint of the spunk we would see a couple years later in Trading Places, but mostly it seems like post-Halloween slumming.

It does seem implausible that Quid would keep running into the same people over and over again on his trip, but not impossible, so that’s a minor nitpick.  A decent thriller with some fine techniques, despite a few slow spots.  Rating: Good (73)

IMDb
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