January 25, 2007

Movie Review: The Hitcher

Remakes, remakes, remakes. Are you sick of them yet? I thought as much. It seems that the majority of horror films that hit the screens are remakes, sequels, or rip offs of what came before them. There isn't much in the way of original vision coming out of the Hollywood system. The Hitcher may not technically be a horror film, more of a thriller, but it is close enough for this. It is another in a long line of remakes that Hollywood hopes to make a quick buck off of before they fade into obscurity. Still, occasionally one becomes a legit hit, or actually offers a flash of genuine entertainment. For this viewer, The Hitcher fits the bill. It offers up some decent suspense, a dash of violence, and is genuinely entertaining for an hour and a half. A word of warning, don't take my entertainment factor as a statementof quality.

The Hitcher is a slick remake from music video director Dave Meyers, whose sole prior movie credit was helming the Eddie Griffin film Foolish back in 1999. Unlike many of his music video contemporaries, he doesn't edit the movie into oblivion. Sure, there are a few quick cuts and video-esque moments, but he seems to have a better grasp on how to use the techniques to better effect by limiting their use in a film. He exhibits the potential of developing into a better film director based on this example (I haven't seen Foolish).

I came into the film without the baggage of the original film, which I do want to see. Although, I have seen the sequel, which is something I do not want to remember. That fact may have helped me in my enjoyment of this film, I did not have the original to compare to, allowing me to view unfettered from any preconceived notions of how well, or not so well, the remake would compare to the Rutger Hauer take.

Outside of its obvious connection to the original film, The Hitcher reminded me of another film that I was introduced to not all that long ago. Dust Devil is a film about a supernatural being who appears as a hitchhiker, who uses the deaths of others to strengthen himself. A charismatic presence that worms its way into your brain, both frightened and attracted to his evil presence. The hitcher in this film is much the same way, an individual who has a menacing presence and lives for the kill. Whether or not there is any supernatural connection is up for discussion, but there is a distinct feeling that he is something other than human. An angel of death out thinning the herd, if you will.

The story centers on Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) and Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush), a couple leaving for Spring Break. Along the way a rainstorm hits and they come across a man with a broken down car. They speed along, but end up bumping into each other at a gas station. At this moment the story goes down a path of danger and death, precisely where Jim and Grace don't want to go.

The man is John Ryder (Sean Bean). He freely offers up the fact that he is not trustworthy. From this early moment, it is clear what is going to happen. The young couple are going to run and John Ryder is going to relentlessly pursue them, intent on separating them from their life. For what reason? This is not revealed. The thrill of the kill, the excitement of the chase, a biological need, or something even more sinister. Not knowing sort of makes it a touch more frightening, seeming randomness can be rather scary.

The Hitcher is essentially a chase film. The kids run and Ryder pursues, relentlessly. Along the way, they try to obtain help, only to be mistaken as the killer on the loose. What keeps the interest up are the tense setups which allow us to spend time with Ryder. Sean Bean injects a good dose of steely menace into the hitcher, the guy is scary.

Bean carries the film with his evil intensity. Our heroic couple are two of the blandest leads I have seen in some time. They are fortunate that the situations they find themselves in, and the presence of Sean Bean, are enough to carry the film to an enjoyable level. Zachary Knighton does not have a personality of his own, he is just there. Sophia Bush, on the other hand, doesn't light up the screen with her acting either, but she is quite lovely, and spends the entire film in a little mini skirt. Needless to say, it was easy enough to distract yourself with the visuals when she was on the screen.

I went in with low expectations and was happy to find the, exceeded and brought up to a level where I found myself somewhat invested in the events and quite entertained. Although, there was that one scene where it turns from a cool, pinball machine like, car chase into a Nine Inch Nails music video. The song was "Closer," from the 1994 album The Downward Spiral. As cool as the song is, I feel it was a poor choice considering the age of the song, it sort of dates the film prematurely.

Bottomline. This was definitely an entertaining film, although it is not a great one, or even a good one. There is not a lot of depth to the story or to the characters. It is all setup and superficial story with very little depth. Still, it was fun, I enjoy Sean Bean in just about anything, and Sophia Bush is easy on the eyes.



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