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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Hitcher

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Directed by: Robert Harmon
Written by: Eric Red
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh

This is now on my top ten list of thrillers.

I haven't seen this film since it came out, and was on HBO for about a zillion years. So, we're talking fifteen years since I've seen this film. Fifteen years ago I was, well, fifteen... and didn't really give two shits about film, who made what, who starred in what... I liked Ghostbusters. That's about it.

So, here I am, thirty, and I'm watching films I haven't seen with my new eyes... and this film is just brilliant.

First off, Eric Red give us an incredibly original cat and mouse script, with original characters and scenes, great dialog and some great scares. I'm not sure if most of you are going to recognize Eric Red. First off, this was his first produced film... and man, what a great one to start your career off with. He also wrote the script (and co-produced) Near Dark with Kathryn Bigelow in 1987, his follow-up film.

Near Dark is a cult film, with an enormous following. The two films got him able to write and direct his next film, Cohen and Tate, in 1989. Starring Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin, it kind of fell by the wayside. Blue Steel would follow, another for Bigelow... with Joel Silver and Jamie Lee Curtis. Successful in its own right, Red would go on to write and direct the cult horror film Body Parts. Now that's a great movie, if you haven't seen it. A lot of fun.

Bad Moon would be his foray into werewolves, and I even remember this film making it to the theaters... but I missed it. I've seen it on video, and it has a gruesome beginning, very cool and reminiscent of The Howling... worth checking out.

He would write (with Kathryn Bigelow) and direct Undertow in 1996... and that's the last we've heard of him since, unfortunately. I hope we get another Red film soon. I think the time off might help his return to the genre.

Robert Harmon is another name you are probably not going to be familiar with (unless you're a fan). The Hitcher, like Red, is his first film. He wrote, produced, directed and shot a short called China Lake in 1983, and I suppose someone thought he could handle a feature. Well, they were certainly right... and the two men did an incredible job with their first film.

I haven't seen any of Harmon's other films. Eyes of an Angel, Nowhere to Run (starring Van Damme), They in 2002 and Highwaymen, a thriller that came out last year. I've wanted to see Highwaymen, and I look forward to seeing it on DVD when it comes out.

This film has more originality and style than any of the thrillers I've seen in the last five, hell, ten years. It's got incredible storytelling, great character development and a style that is reminiscent of Bigelow's, especially in Near Dark. You can see the serious influence there, between both Red and Bigelow in that film... so I can see Red being an influence with Hitcher's style.

What I find completely believable is that Red wrote this film after being inspired by The Doors 'Riders on the Storm' song. That is a cool piece of trivia, if ever I've heard...

I was incredibly impressed with all of the acting in the film. The majority of the work C. Thomas Howell does nowadays is on video. I say work is work... I'm glad that he's still doing what he enjoys doing. To present, he's acted in almost sixty features, his first one being one of the biggest moneymakers in history, E.T. He would follow that film up with Copolla's The Outsiders... a couple of other features, including Tank and Red Dawn. He would follow that up with Hitcher and Soul Man... but it was after that that things kind of went to the wayside.

I don't recognize most of the films he's been in since Soul Man, besides Gettysburg, Gods and Generals and Hidalgo. The rest, it seems, were all straight to video films... or at least most of them. But that really doesn't have much to do with his ability as an actor, as much as it has to do with him not being a 'name' any more.

A shame. But, as I said, work is work, and I'm glad he's still doing it.

Rutger Hauer is an incredible actor, and plays a fantastic part in this film, a great follow up to not only Blade Runner (1982), but also his work on Ladyhawke, The Osterman Weekend, Nighthawks and all of the work he's done with Paul Verhoeven over the years.

I'm a huge fan of Hauer's. His personality in each film doesn't change. That means something, when someone can bring the same kind of personality to each character, and still have it be fresh and entertaining. I've all of the films I've seen him in, especially some of the b-movie films. I hate calling them b-movies, because it has such a negative conotation, but I don't consider a b-movie a bad film. I consider it a film not for the mainstream, that's about it.

Here are some examples. Wanted: Dead or Alive, Blind Fury, Split Second (great movie!)... I liked all of these. He's made some appearances in mainstream films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He's presently filming Dracula III and, this is just great, Batman Begins... cannot wait to see him in that film!

Hauer brings a deadly personality to this film. Very frightening. So frightening that Howell had no problem being afraid of him on set, because of Hauer's intensity. pretty neat.

I'm not a huge fan of Jennifer Jason Leigh, but she was good in this film, one of her earliest. She had starred with Hauer in Paul Verhoeven's film Flesh & Blood, in 1985, though the two rarely share any scenes together in this film. My favorite film of her's is The Hudsucker Proxy, and I found it a disappointment that she wasn't nominated for an Academy Award in 1994/95.

John Seale, the cinematographer, has amassed an incredible career since he started in 1975. He worked on Gallipoli as a camera operator, was the second unit photographer on The Year of Living Dangerously, and really got his career going in 1985, shooting Witness. Children of a Lesser God, The Mosquito Coast, Stakeout, Rain Man, Dead Poets Society, The Firm, The American President, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Dreamcatcher and Cold Mountain would follow. I mean, wow. He's currently shooting Spanglish for James Brooks.

Seale's work is inspired and original. There are some excellent moments in this film that really impressed me, and you can see that Harmon, Red and Seale were all working together as a team, as were the other cast and crew members.

The last person I'm going to note is Mark Isham, the composer. He's had an incredible career, and The Hitcher was one of his first scored films... it's impressive that he would go from this to other incredible films in the future, like Romeo Is Bleeding, Quiz Show, Nell, Waterworld, Blade, Men of Honor, The Majestic, Impostor, The Cooler, Highwaymen, Miracle... pretty cool, especially with him working with Harmon again.

This movie is an inspiration for anyone who enjoys thrillers, or who wants to write them. I was blown away by this movie, and I learned a lot about what makes a thriller, and what passes for thrillers nowadays.


Sean Bean ... John Ryder

Sophia Bush ... Grace Andrews

Zachary Knighton ... Jim Halsey

Neal McDonough ... Lieutenant Esteridge

Kyle Davis ... Buford’s Store Clerk
Skip O'Brien ... Harlan Bremmer, Sr.

Travis Schuldt ... Harlan Bremmer, Jr.

Danny Bolero ... Officer Edwards

Jeffrey Hutchinson ... Young Father

Yara Martinez ... Beth

Lauren Cohn ... Marlene
Michael J. Fisher ... Transport Guard #2 (as Mike Fisher)
Joseph Michael Self ... Transport Guard #1
Kurt Grossi ... Officer Franklin
Kurt Bryant ... Paramedic

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