Fox // 1994 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 27th, 2005
Getting there is twice the fun.
Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots!) and Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) headline this lean action/romance/comedy that pretty much takes place in a BMW. But when Kristy Swanson is riding shotgun, who's going to complain?
Jackson Hammond (Sheen) is just putting gas in his car and buying a pack of cigarettes when he's suddenly accosted by a pair of police officers. It turns out they've found him in possession of a stole car. Panicking, Hammond grabs a hostage, foists a Butterfinger into her back, and drags her out to her red sports car for the getaway.
The two pile in, Hammond takes the wheel, and the chase is on. With a phalanx of police cars on his tail, as well as an omnipresent media and even a few vigilantes, Hammond has little time to contemplate the size of the mess he's gotten himself into. But things get a lot more complicated when he learns who his prisoner is: Natalie Voss (Swanson), the only daughter of the richest tycoon in California.
With the whole state glued to his frantic dash towards Mexico, and the feisty Voss turning into a giant pain, Hammond struggles to maintain his sanity as well as his lead foot. But the strangest inevitable thing happens: he and his hostage go way beyond Stockholm syndrome and form a budding romance that culminates in a bout of awkward, unsafe freeway sex. Is it possible this can end well, especially with a slew of heavily-armed cops locked and loaded at the border? Yes.
Another somewhat forgotten film dusted off for digital release by Fox, The Chase features Sheen in his bankable Heidi Fleiss days, paired with future pinup Kristy Swanson.
This flick moves quick. From the opening credits, it's only about five minutes before we're in the car and on the road, sires blaring and tires squealing. And it continues at this pace for the rest of the 80-off minutes. So no demerit for sluggish pacing; The Chase lives up to its title.
The action is actually pretty enjoyable throughout. The downtime is taken up with dialogue between the two leads -- while being chased, sure, but it's static dialogue nonetheless -- with well-done vehicular mayhem woven in. Some of the better scenes involve a failed vigilante attempt by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a nice, extended cat-and-mouse sequence culminating in a truck losing control and spilling frozen corpses all over the road (paging Michael Bay), and the final standoff with the authorities.
Director Adam Rifkin keeps the atmosphere light and kinetic, so it never really feels like there are any slow parts. And aside from the goofy, transcendental sex scene, the film moves forward at consistent and entertaining clip.
What stalled for me was the lack of humor in the film. The Chase wants to be at least some part comedy, but the jokes fall flat. Actually, the film needs to have some comedy in its genre make-up, as a realistic approach to the subject matter would likely end in despair and wreckage. The banter between Sheen and Swanson is animated, but pretty blah. There's some boilerplate psychological extrapolation between them: she's a spoiled brat under the control of her jackass father and he's a misunderstood tough guy with a good heart.
The heated exchanges between them in the beginning are necessary for the character arcs but lack even a morsel of dramatic weight as we all know what's to come. For crying out loud, he looks like Charlie Sheen and she looks like Kristy Swanson! Of course they're going to end up in each other's seatbelts!
A few side stories are included to mix things up a bit, but the only one that is partially amusing is Henry Rollins as one of the pursuing cops. The other stuff, with Dalton Voss, Natalie's overbearing father I can do without...and yes it's also necessary for that to be there so as to make the highly ridiculous ending more palatable.
In the end, The Chase is all very Hollywood: lots of sensory overload, one-dimensional characters, and a too-tidy ending, but it's fun. I would classify it as one of those "Sunday afternoon movies." You know the type -- where you've just polished off two plates of lasagna and you plant yourself in front of the television to veg out and the only things on are car racing and an infomercial about a portable rotisserie and you could really go for some mindless entertainment and, hey, it's The Chase! That'll do.
Nothing to get elated about with this disc. Both a full screen and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen to choose from, with both transfers looking decent enough. A rare 4.0 Dolby Digital surround mix provides the audio, but essentially acts as a beefier stereo mix. It is loud though.
The extras were siphoned away somewhere.
For a fast-moving piece of bubblegum escapism that doesn't cater to a minimum number of brain cells, The Chase is a decent early action/romance/comedy '90s diversion -- just don't expect too much comedy.
The accused is thanked by BMW for its relentless product placement.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13