"Brutal" is a word often utilized when describing a highway traffic accident, yet it seems to be an understatement when assessing the amount of mechanical carnage sustained in the movie Highwaymen. Jim Caviezel stars as Rennie, a doctor turned drifter, hunting down the madman responsible for obliterating his wife on the side of the highway. In one of the most disturbing hit and run scenes my eyes have ever witnessed, Rennie's wife is taken from him when the owner of a 72 El Dorado purposefully swerves to take out the poor woman as she returns from buying groceries.
As the introduction to the film, the opening vehicular homicide sets the tone for a very fast paced cat and mouse game between Rennie and Fargo (Feore) as Rennie follows Fargo across the US in hopes of retribution. Along the way, Rennie stumbles upon Molly (Mitra), the lone survivor of one of Fargo's staged accidents. Again, director Robert Harmon displays a thirst for carnage in Fargo's random attack on Molly and her friend in an accident scene reminiscent of the infamous dream sequence from Final Destination 2. With incredible stunt work and precision auto handling, the tunnel scene attack provides a sensational 12 minutes of "edge of the seat" action with a masochistic ending that left me with my jaw on the floor.
Remarkably, the film refuses to slow down as both Rennie and Fargo chase down Molly, the lone survivor of any of Fargo's attacks. In yet another amazing auto accident/ chase scene, Rennie is able to save Molly from one of Fargo's vicious assaults. After a great deal of character background explanation, including Molly's troubled past with car accidents, Rennie is able to convince Molly that the duo needs to put a stop to Fargo's homicidal tendencies.
Initially, Harmon successfully hid Fargo from the audience's view, but as the film progressed so did Fargo's emergence from behind the window tint. The evolution of Fargo's character from the initial movie sequence to the end of the film is a succession of deterioration, both physically and mentally.
While certain aspects of Highwaymen were flawless, the film did not go without its fair share of deficiencies. For starters, the injection of Freddie Faison's character, a traffic investigator hell bent on bringing down the perpetrator of the wreck from Molly's initial accident scene, was completely trite and unnecessary. Faison is not a convincing hard ass (traffic cop???), and looks as though he should be labeled "Rennie's Bitch" as he repeatedly tries to bring the vigilante down. The single character flaw aside, another glaring problem stares the viewer in the face as the film begins to unfold.
Miserably attempting to explain the homicidal tendencies of Fargo, Highwaymen delves into the topic of exposure to graven images as a basis for serial murder occurrences. Apparently, Fargo's daddy was an auto insurer who started a scrapbook of accident photos for his son, permanently warping his mind. Fargo then began staging accidents to collect insurance money and photos for his collection, eventually dropping the insurance fraud gig and focusing mainly on killing for pleasure. Granted, the possibility of a serial killer developing though this method isn't farfetched, the way in which Highwaymen presents the notion is a bit hurried and clouded.
Visually, Harmon's creation is stunning, providing vast landscapes and as mentioned earlier, continuous sequences of very well shot car chases and accidents. Very similar to the isolated feeling in Joyride, the empty backdrops of the desolate highways used were an effective medium to build tension throughout the film. Even the main characters of the film seemingly blended into the background, offering up minimal development traits except the ever lingering feelings of revenge and fear.
By way of extras, the Highwaymen disc is disappointingly thin. On the R1 DVD are both widescreen and full screen versions of the film, the original theatrical trailer, additional trailer spots and the option for accessing additional DVD ROM content. If you're a lazy bastard like me, the last thing you want is to have to remove the disc from your player, plop it in the ol' cpu and access extras that should have been on the disc regardless.
The additional material flaw aside, Highwaymen is an excellent film all around and a definite pick up for fans of the "crash and burn" category. Caviezel offers up an incredible performance, and the supporting cast (sans Faison) deliver admirably. Harmon must be commended on the action scenes provided and the way in which he flawlessly presents a flowing story that not only stimulates the viewer's oculars, but the good ol' fear element that horror/thrillers have been so lacking lately. Floor the pedal to go pick up this flick, and if you mow down a few pedestrians on the way, just make sure to run the auto through the car wash to get rid of the evidence.