Two-Lane Blacktop Reviews
Daniel S. of Geneva, Switzerland
"Two pop stars of that period, James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as the driver and the mechanic, race against Warren Oates in a journey through the heart of America. While Taylor and Wilson hardly speak, Warren Oates has a convulsive need to talk to the numerous hitch-hikers he accepts to take for a ride in his GTO.
TWO-LANE BLACKTOP is a road movie, in the tradition of EASY RIDER and THE VANISHING POINT, but the characters don't have to prove anything, they don't even care if they make it to their final destination, Washington D.C. They cannot either be considered as rebels because they don't have an ideal to defend or an authority to face. They are tragic figures without any ideals."
Chris K. Wilson of Dallas, TX United States
"The three main characters, haunted lost souls void of identity and emotion, are played by James Taylor, Dennis Wilson and Warren Oates. Taylor and Wilson silently cruise the backroads of America looking for the next race in their 55' Chevy. They eventually meet Oates, a chattering, nervous man involved in some kind of middle-age crisis while picking up hitchikers in his GTO. These men decide to race cross country, but eventually lose interest.
Throw into this uneasy mix a young hitchiker played by Laurie Bird. She jumps back and forth between these three men, holding off their awkward advances, eventually realizing their emotionless lives are headed down an endless highway without destination.
"Two-Lane Blacktop" is a morose study of men perpetually lost on the backroads of a nameless American landscape. They are hovering ghosts, void of identity, forever searching for a meaning which cannot be found. There are no easy truths or answers in Hellman's complex odyssey. These men are trapped, their cars serving as rolling coffins, redemption seemingly around the next bend, inexorably moving further and further away.
The time period of the early 1970s and the scratchy period music moaning from the AM radio, combined with the faceless gas stations and roadside diners of numerous small towns, all contribute to the overall effect of Hellman's dark character study. "Two-Lane Blacktop" is one of the finest American films no one has ever heard of."
The existential odyssey the characters go on seems to be more about the journey than the actual destination. The conclusion is a clear example of this. Some might find this film very dull, tedious and boring. Nothing much happens. But it captures such atmosphere, mood and place. The almost-always silent brothers, the young girl who disrupts their ordinary world, the Warren Oates character who just consistently wants to pick up hitchhikers and talk their ears off; all these elements add up to a portrait of a distinct culture of the 70's. (Interestingly, both brothers were rock stars in real life, who would never act again). The film might be too understated for most, but for those who appreciate films like The Passenger and Wanda, would likely find much to celebrate.
The rest of the cast is a hippie chick trying to find her way in life, and a race car driver and his Mechanic friend. All the characters are quirky, but only Oates is truly memorable. They bounce around from place to place looking for car action, but the audience gets little of it. A lot less than you might expect. That, and the lack of memorable characters is the reason I can't hold this movie with the highest regard. If you're going to have a slow paced movie, you need engaging characters to make it worthwhile, and that only partly existed here.
"Shaft", "The French Connection",and "Dirty Harry" in the cinemas. The big surprise and the shocker of the Oscars was when "The French Connection" took the honors and the Oscars as the best movie of 1971 beating out the heavily favorite "Fiddler On The Roof" that year. But getting back to "Two-Lane Blacktop" this movie preceded the successful "Easy Rider" as the next to the last of the existential road pictures that were all over the place during the mid-1960's and all through the decade of the 1970's. However this cult classic was unavailable for years on video until 1999 surviving in the meantime on occasional television airings on nightly late shows and ending up being screened on college campuses and in second-run theaters and drive-ins. It built up a cult following(including Werner Herzog,who helped campaign for its video release through Universal MCA Home Video)and was eventually recognized by the Library of Congress National Film Registry and the Criterion Collection,and was credited as one of the inspirations for the real-life Cannonball Run. Not bad for a film about a couple of guys with no names,driving route 66. But in some aspects,this film made the theatrical debuts of two musicians...One was North Carolina native James Taylor(who in fact is a graduated of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was raise and born in Chapel Hill,North Carolina),and the other was "Beach Boy" singer Dennis Wilson. There isn't a whole hell of a lot of plot to "Two-Lane Blacktop" other than James Taylor and Dennis Wilson cruisin down the highway in a 1955 Chevy with a teen hitchhiker(actress Laurie Bird,who became involved with director Monte Hellman and later have a relationship with Art Garfunkel,before her untimely death in 1979)who are known solely as The Driver and The Mechanic. Their racing against Warren Oates,an older fellow with a 1970 Pontiac GTO and a propensity for self-aggrandizement. From a standpoint,the film is not only a marvel,but a timeless cult classic that still brings a strong sense of realism along with its spectacular editing that perfectly fits the era. The result is standard entertainment that is to be seen. Look for an early Harry Dean-Stanton in a hilarious scene as a hitchhiker who tries to help Oates "relax". Also the soundtrack to "Two-Lane Blacktop" is an outstanding result. Check out the seldom-heard original version(which is on the soundtrack album to the motion picture) of "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson as well as seldom heard material from both James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. A Bonafide classic masterpiece
James Taylor is fantastic as the driver (although he says very little) and just mysteriously has this presence that works for the film.
It's a simple film a driver & mechanic travel the US dragging for money for gas & food and I guess it's more about the journey.
Although slow mid way it does draw you in & is an interesting film, you won't see the ending coming or may even like it....