When it comes to movies as unhinged as "Freeway," my love for all things absurd and trashy rises to unseemly biased levels. There is something about low-budgets and Tarantino-esque exchanges that touch me in the way that most films can hardly muster. Few can brag about having an ever-present crisis of tawdry characters getting into some seriously bad situations, and even fewer can say that they've devised a film so dauntless in its over-the-top personality that it nearly laughs itself to death.
Witherspoon, who is best when playing against type, portrays Vanessa, a 16-year old delinquent who is anchored to the ground by her prostitute mother (Amanda Plummer) and drugged-out stepfather. In school, reading a sentence like "The cat drinks milk" is a feat of Shakespearian hardship, as Vanessa, more enticed to be called a badass in the slums of Los Angeles, is devastatingly illiterate. But anyone who lacks school smarts and lives on the bad streets of town is bound to be a little more unhinged in their fight in the rat race, after all.
After her parents are arrested, Vanessa decides that she's done with the government, skips foster care, and heads towards the home of her grandmother, who she never has actually met. Only a few miles into the journey does her car breakdown - lucky for her, a clean-cut stranger (Kiefer Sutherland) comes to the rescue, introducing himself as Bob Wolverton, a high school counselor.
Vanessa immediately confides in her makeshift chauffeur about all her weighty problems; but after traveling for a few hours, Wolverton's true nature is bitterly revealed. He turns out to be one of those sadistic creeps you read about in the paper - some may know him as the I-5 Killer. Vanessa isn't about to become some helpless next victim, however: she is, fortunately, packing a pistol. She shoots her would-be murderer several times, takes all his money, and leaves him for dead. But chances are, when you leave someone for dead, they tend to not actually die, and, as the film would like to remind us over and over, Vanessa should have shot Wolverton just one more time.
The saga of "Freeway" is as jarring and unpredictable as the tabloid coverage of a true-crime cat-and-mouse game, its participants so grandiosely sinful in their shabby hysteria that, by the end, when Vanessa is completely exhausted, mascara streaming down her face like a jilted prom queen, her asking for a cigarette is as riotous as Lucy and Ethel trying as hard as they can to get the chocolates from overloading on the conveyer belt.
"Freeway" is a comedy, but it's not a comedy for the "Anchorman" generation and maybe not even for the ones who thought "The Carol Burnett Show" was a shining jewel in television. It's mean-spirited enough to drive Regina George away, but even the meanest of people can be hilariously mean. The film is a melodramatically contorted white-trash vision; not laughing would almost be rude. Matthew Bright, as cynical and clever as he is, has accomplished the rare act of making a B-movie thriller brilliant in its tackiness. Witherspoon and Sutherland have never been so enthralling.
Fans of Natural Born Killers and that mid-90s spree-killing trash-talking Springer-worthy Tarantino/Stone era will revel in its grindhouse pants-around-the-ankles filth, moxy, and cynicism.
Tired of hyphenated sentiments yet? Cause I'm not.
Makes "Pink Flamingoes" look like an Oscar contender.