Genius casting to get Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal as two punk rockhead druggies. I know when I think of cool punkhead, I think of "30 Seconds to Mars"- I mean of Jared Leto getting his face smashed in my Ed Nort-I mean, of Jared Leto almost getting set on fire by Jodie Fost-I mean, of Jared Leto getting hacked up by Christian Bale. ...Okay, that's as flattering as we're gonna get, so let's go with that, but seriously though, Leto has certainly gained experience in that slick campy acting department, as well as the druggy acting department, and the same can be said about Jake Gyllenhaal, who earned his campy charm in "Bubble Boy" and experience with drugs. Why do think he was in "Bubble Boy" in the first place? No, but seriously though, Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal are both excellent performers that are arguably among today's greats, partially because they're so charismatic. Here, they sadly don't get to play up their talent until the end, but they get plenty of material to play up the charisma to deliver on some fun and crackling chemistry. After all, this is an indie film and indie films, no matter how stylistically crafted, is almost always all about the characters, but really, that's among the handful of conventions in the indie genre this film follows, for unlike most indie films, this lacks pretense, but then again, that's mostly because it's not quite smart enough to have the right to hold itself in such high regard.
Now, this film isn't totally incompetent, but it's not the sharpest tool in the shed, mostly because it's so unoriginal. It's almost as if it wants to be another "Big Lebowski", but it tries too hard and takes too much material from other sources that its obnoxiousness, obscenity overusage and long scenes of just frat joke, after frat joke, after frat joke come off as a little dumb, and it doesn't help that this film feels like a random string of events enough as it is. Oh, did I forget to mention that this film is obnixious? No? Well, actually, I may as well have, because just mentioning it isn't enough to fully describe how annoying this thing gets. The film gets to be overwhelming, partially because of its extreme and frequent bursts of overly grotesque obscenities, but mostly because it has a great style, but doesn't know how to pull back on that, leaving it to be more overstylized than a fan music video by some teen geek who just a hold of "Sony Vegas". It's dizzyingly overedited, with overbearingly music cues, overloud sound design, overly gratuitously random imagery and overall overlong stylizing segments that don't surprisingly don't cause any extensive harm to the storyline, but still has you numb by the frantic direction.
The film is so ridiculously stylistic, but really, who can blame the filmmakers for overstylizing? Okay, well, the style is so overdone that I guess they're past redemption, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't just blowing smoke when I called the style great, overwhelmingly overused though, it may be. The slickly-manipulated use of sound design pulls you into the environment and cinematography is very lively, cool and adds an extra snap to the extreme quick edits. Really, what the style tries to do is establish snap and entertainment value, and although the film overdoes it like you wouldn't believe, the style is still so snappy that no matter how overwhelming it is, it stays consistently effective, quickening the pace and liveliness of this ridiculously obscene, but delightfully extreme dialogue to where it eventually gets to you, provokes a smile, then a laugh, then a belly laugh, then annoyance, because it goes on too long. Still, before you know it, they hit you with another effective quick joke, in spite of overstylizing, mostly because the delivery is so sharp. The film is undeniably charming, boasting fine chemistry and sharp charisma all throughout the cast, even if there are a fair share of overactors in the bunch. Still, this is the show of Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal, and they own it with charisma and chemistry that burns brighter than anyone else's, allowing them to carry the film through all of its faults and make as generally enjoyable as it is.
At the end of the trip, the storyline is familiar, when not thrown-together and the frantic style is overly prominent to a painful extent, but thanks to the style being just so snappy - in spite of the overusage - and constant charm summoned by the wide cast of sharp charismas, - headed by the always solid Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal - the extreme slippery-slope of mess that is "Highway" remains a generally fun ride, if you can handle the style storm.
2.5/5 - Fair