Anchor Bay presents
"Tell the lost souls of Babylon that I am here."- Heller (Billy Drago)
Stars: Darlanne Fluegel, James Russo, Richard Belzer, Billy Drago
Other Stars: Michael Callan, Joe Palese, Kenneth Tobey
Director: Francis Delia
Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:54s
Release Date: 2003-06-24
DVD ReviewNo, this isn't the Freeway starring Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland, that darkly weird and edgy retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood folktale. That Freeway is a great little film (and available in the $5.88 Wal-Mart bin, by the way), while this particular Freeway, directed by television vet Francis Delia, is a 1988 road-rage thriller layered in trite religious overtones and endless amounts of dopey dialogue. Sure, Delia's Freeway was made many years before the "good one," but there's just no getting around the fact that this just isn't a particularly memorable film.
In a purportedly ripped-from-the-headlines storyline, a crazed nut is prowling Los Angeles freeways, randomly shooting motorists. Said nut drives around in a big, dusty Lincoln that he likes to use as a battering ram, and spouts religious gobbledygook before blasting a large caliber handgun at his hapless victims. A smartass late-night radio talk show host named Dr. Lazarus (smartass comic Richard Belzer) becomes a conduit for the killer, who decides to phone in with oblique and nasty-sounding bible quotations broadcast on the air as he picks off new victims. This captures the attention of plucky, beautiful ER nurse Sunny Harper (Crime Story's Darlanne Fluegel), whose husband was killed by the very same nutjob, which escalates her own independent hunt for the killer.
Billy Drago plays the pent-up psycho killer, something that he seems especially good at. He has that weird, deranged look down pretty well, and his raspy Revelations rants have a Travis Bickle "real rain will come wash all the scum off the street" feel to them. Though we only glimpse his eyes for about the first 70 minutes, we know his name well before the main character's, thanks to the opening credits announcement of "Billy Drago as Heller." Combine that with the fact that the rest of the limited palette of characters are parcelled out in neat, identifiable packages (sexy female lead; hunky male lead; frazzled police lieutenant; crazed killer), we, the viewer, have to sit back idly (and increasingly bored) and wait for Fluegel's investigative nurse and James Russo's mysterious stranger to uncover the truth.
The religious blathering by Drago's character is tolerable, in a fun movie villain kind of way, (though, do crazed killers really do this?), but combine that with Belzer's character being named Lazarus and the story taking place in Los Angeles (the "City of Angels"), then the heavy-handed biblical wrapper almost becomes too much to accept, even within the framework of a B-movie. And since Drago's character is eventually revealed to be named Heller (unless of course you watched the opening credits), the eye-rolling of the narrowly focused script seems all but inevitable.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has a way of resurrecting older, obscure films, and giving them somewhat respectable transfers. This clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen print of Freeway, while not AB's finest moment by far, is still a better-than-average transfer of a forgettable flick. Colors run a little soft, though fleshtones have a natural hue and balance. Black levels, for all of those dark highway sequences, are pretty solid, with adequate shadow delineation.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital Stereo audio track, in English, is about what you would expect from a mid-1980s low-budget film. Not a whole lot of punch to the presentation, and very little in the way of depth or breadth to the soundstage. Dialogue is presentable and understandable, and the dated, cheesy sax score is painfully upfront.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: The offramp to Freeway's supplements reveal just a theatrical trailer and a satisfactory 19 chapter stops.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsFreeway is a fairly pointless exercise in religious mutterings, random shootings, and a cornball final act. While Darlanne Fluegel is certainly a beautiful woman, and I had no complaints about watching her nurse character perform unbelievable police heroics, the film's core is creepy Billy Drago as the violent road-rager, and he just doesn't get enough screen time.
Rich Rosell 2003-08-12