by Rosalie Lewis
Along the way, she has a bit of car trouble and a bespectacled Kiefer Sutherland wearing a corduroy blazer complete with elbow patches comes to her apparent rescue. His name is Bob Wolverton, and with a name like that how could you go wrong climbing in his car and telling him you’re basically a teenage girl alone in the world with no one to look after you? When he starts to get a little too gleefully inquisitive about her tale of woe and abuse at the hands of men, she makes a connection. “You’re not that I-5 Killer now are you, Bob? What, are you gonna kill me and do sex to my dead body?” Oh, that’s exactly what he plans to do. But this firecracker with the colorful vocabulary isn’t about to become his next victim. She takes control of the situation and next thing you know she’s ordering coffee and breakfast at a diner covered in blood that’s not her own.
Researching this movie led me to discover some choice interviews with various participants. For example, Oliver Stone (who produced it) goes on record talking about how rare it was to see what it’s “really like” inside a youth detention center and what young people with improper parenting are up to these days. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was never a realistic portrayal of juvenile delinquency but sure, go off, Ollie. Whatever you say. Then we have a behind the scenes interview with the young Reese Witherspoon, where she talks about preparing for this role by “listening to rappers” and then mentions Mary J. Blige and how she wants to be treated with respect.
Not everything in this movie has aged gracefully. There are some uncomfortable racial elements that make me cringe, even though the movie tries to have it both ways on this topic. It’s not the most enlightened take on sex workers either, although I’d argue that kind of comes with the territory in an exploitation film. You shouldn’t watch this if you need your movies to embody the moral high ground, is what I’m saying. Setting aside these questionable choices, this thing still mostly holds up as a cult classic with appearances from the likes of Dan Hedaya, Bokeem Woodbine, Amanda Plummer, Brooke Shields, and Guillermo Diaz.
I can’t write about this movie without mentioning the music—it’s got a score by Danny Elfman, who apparently is a childhood friend of the director, as well as songs by only in the 9'0s artists like Miss Murgatroid, Sam Phipps (of Oingo Boingo), and The Twanglers. Oh, and the opening credits are amazing—animated drawings of a scantily clad Little Red Riding Hood being stalked by a lascivious Big Bad Wolf.
“Occasionally an unsuspecting innocent will stumble into a movie like this and send me an anguished postcard, asking how I could possibly give a favorable review to such trash…. We have a great appetite in this country for books, TV shows and movies about serial killers, perverted hermits, mad bombers and pathological torturers -- just as long as their deeds are cloaked in moralistic judgments. We pant over the pages before closing the book and repeating, with Richard Nixon, ‘but . . . that would be wrong.’ Freeway illuminates our secret appetites.”
If you’ve got a hunger for '90s cult movies, this one is sure to satisfy.