DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Highwaymen

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Aug 9, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    Highwaymen


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: New Line
    Year: 2003
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 81 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, DD Surround
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $19.95





    Director Robert Harmon made a name for himself with his 1986 cult classic The Hitcher and followed that up seven years later with the highly underrated Jean-Claude Van Damme film Nowhere to Run. In 2002 he made a return to horror with Wes Craven Presents: They but when Freddy vs Jason hit theaters horror fans got a big surprise. Before the film started New Line showed the trailer for a film that looked incredible and before the title popped up there was already a bit of buzz going on. That film was Highwaymen but it eventually kept getting pushed back to the point where it only opened limited theaters to cash in on star Jim Caviezel’s role in The Passion of the Christ.

    Did the studio mess up a golden opportunity for another cult classic or was the film simply bad and that’s why it kept getting pushed back? Well, on August 24th, New Line delivers this much talked about but rarely seen film on DVD with the low retail price of $19.95.

    The story is kept simple and violent throughout. Rennie Cray (Jim Caviezel) is out searching for a hit and run driver who no one knows about but himself. Five years earlier a man driving a ’72 El Dorado ran over Cray’s wife and got off without spending a day in jail. Cray on the other hand served three years in prison for aggravated assault after he crashed his car into this secret man who didn’t die however. After being released from prison Cray goes out looking for the guy who is now deformed and has transformed his car into an extension of his own body. A cat and mouse game takes place over two years as the El Dorado keeps stalking and killing innocent women. The newest target (Rhonda Mitra) survives the first attack so Cray decides to use her in order to get the El Dorado who keeps coming back for more.

    Highwaymen is in no way a great movie and while there are many problems here the bottom line is that we’ve got a tense and well directed thriller that is destined to get a cult following just like The Hitcher did so many years ago. Like that film, the director goes over the top in some of the graphic violence but he also makes the wise decision to cut out all the Hollywood stuff and go straight for the jugular. I’m sure many other directors would have tried to turn this into some soap opera but thankfully Harmon knew exactly what to do with the film. The film runs 74-minutes not including the end credits and some said this is why New Line didn’t give this a large theatrical run but it’s this reason the film works so well.

    One thing missing from films today is the short running time. Films of the past were always good at keeping the running time low especially if they didn’t have much of a story to work with. Various Monogram horror films and several exploitation films from the 1970’s came in to show one thing and they delivered that without trying to butter up the viewer with silly side plots and stupid romance scenes between the two leads. Highwaymen is a very good example of this because it’s 74-minute runtime is nothing more or less than a straight revenge story. The two leads don’t fall in love and we don’t have any stupid scenes dealing with the villain trying to come across as something he isn’t.

    I’m sure some will criticize the film because we really don’t get to know the good guy or the bad guy but once again I think this is a major plus. Do we really need an extra twenty minutes to know the good guy is a good guy and the bad guy is a bad guy? Of course not. This message is set up within the opening sequence and if the viewer has half a brain then he knows what’s going on, who we’re suppose to root for and we should be smart enough to know the bad guy is an evil SOB who is going to get what’s coming. Director Harmon has a very simple setup and a very simple delivery. There isn’t a scene in the movie that doesn’t belong or doesn’t add anything to the film. We go from the first act to the last one and the director delivers the goods without trying to do anything extra.

    Jim Caviezel moves slowly and speaks softly but the performance is right on the mark because we know exactly what he’s thinking just by the way his walks and various body jesters that are given throughout the film. The supporting actors do a nice job in their roles but the film certainly belongs to Caviezel and the two cars. There are a few bad scenes, namely a rescue that’s a bit far fetched towards the start of the film but other than that we’ve got a wonderful little B-film that manages to be tense without the added crap we’d see in a Hollywood film. The director has a fancy for showing some graphic crash violence but this here just adds to the discomfort of the film.


    VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Considering the low budget we get another very good transfer from New Line with the only problems coming from a couple scenes where white speckles can be seen. I only noticed around three scenes, which each had one or two speckles but for such a recent film we really shouldn’t be seeing these. The film appears to have been shot with a bit of a soft focus and this here doesn’t seen to be an issue with the transfer. The best example of this occurs at the end of the film where our hero is sitting in his car next to a cornfield. The colors of the corn is a lighter, more faded looking green but it appears to have been meant to look this way. Colors are very good and the detail given adds to the nice transfer. There’s a wonderful moment where the hero is driving through a desert and this scene really shows off the transfer. The light blue sky comes off looking very natural as does the brownish dirt on the ground. I didn’t detect any edge enhancement or digital artifacts, which is a major plus. A Pan and Scan version is also included on the disc.

    AUDIO---We get Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround and a Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround tracks. Once again I compared the DD5.1 to the DTS track and in this case the DTS track is the clear winner, although neither track is what I’d call reference quality. Again, this is a low budget film so we shouldn’t expect too much but what we do get captures the film just fine. The dialogue is upfront and crystal clear with great range and clarity with each line. There isn’t a single scene where the dialogue gets blurred behind the action going on. The Surrounds go to good use but again, don’t expect anything that’s going to rattle your windows. The various car wrecks sound remarkably well going from the left to right speakers and the Surrounds are also perfectly used with various sound effects from sparks hitting the ground to even the static coming in through the CB. The DTS track gets the edge because there seems to be a bit more bass during the action scenes but neither track will let you down.

    EXTRAS---The only extra is the wonderful theatrical trailer, which is interesting to watch because it contains a “clean” image from what we get in the actual film. Meaning, in the film there are a few bloody bodies that are shown but in the trailer these bodies have been cleaned up to the point where you can’t even tell they were in a wreck.

    OVERALL---I know a lot of people have been waiting for this film and it’s a shame it didn’t get a bigger theatrical run. I’m going to guess one reason why it didn’t get a bigger release was due to its short running time but studios need to learn that more of the junk they release runs thirty to forty minutes too long anyways. This is in no way a great film but I can certainly see a cult following happening. New Line delivers a very nice, although some production notes on the troubled history of this film would have been nice.


    Release Date: August 24th, 2004
     
  2. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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  3. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    Seeing how The Hitcher is my third favorite film of all time, I was really looking forward to this film. Luckily, Texas was one of the two states it opened in, and I really liked this film. I also did a review for it in the Movies section around its time of release. Nobody else chimed in though, but that wasn't surprising, as New Line treated the film like shit. Anyways, the film could've been a little longer, and I'm almost certain that some scenes were cut out. Still, if you want my full thoughts on the film, just look up my thread.

    As for the DVD, New Line could've done more than just a trailer, a trailer that's useless to me to boot, seeing how its on several of the other New Line discs I own. They've treated this film badly from the start, and I'm pretty disappointed in them for that.

    Still, the DVD will be mine, as I really like the film.
     
  4. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    I got this DVD today. I just wonder why NEW LINE didn't include the other HIGHWAYMEN trailer (what we get is a trailer I have never seeen , but I like the other trailer better). Yep, it is a shame this movie didn't get a big theater release.
     
  5. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Doesn’t Caviezel have some aversion to love scenes - and even overtly romantic situations - in his movies due to his devout religion? I’m fairly certain he mentioned this in an interview around the time of THE PASSION (the movie, not the Passion). I guess bodies getting mangled in bloody car wrecks is tolerable to his moral beliefs, so long as no one does anything gross like kissing. [​IMG]
     
  6. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    Oh, don't get me wrong -- I agree completely, and I tried to say as much in my post. If I didn't make the point clear, I apologize. That's my problem with Highwaymen, though -- it has a low body count, the few kills there are really aren't gruesome, and those kills happen so quickly that there isn't any lingering sense of tension or suspense. There are a couple of very cool looking car wrecks, but for the most part, they're just driving around, and there's nothing about those moments to really build any excitement or interest. The protagonists rarely seem to be in any real danger, and they manage to continually escape with little more than track marks or a nick on the head. The backstory is crammed in with almost laughably poorly-shoehorned exposition, and the traffic inspector only seems to be part of the equation because the formula requires a cop figure. Honestly, I wouldn't even characterize this as an exploitation film. It's a glossy, if lower-budgeted, Hollywood action flick that uses speeding cars instead of bullets.

    When you get a chance to watch Highwaymen, Brian, please post your thoughts here. Even if you disagree with me, I would be interested in hearing what you think.
     
  7. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Will do. Your criticisms make sense in light of other things I've been reading about the film. I usually hold out lowered expectations for low-budget studio stuff anyways, since only the indies (especially in the old days) ever seemed able to pull this stuff off with any panache. When it comes from a major studio, and gets treated the way this film was, one begins to suspect there was a reason...

    Seems like Robert Harmon can never get a break.
     
  8. PaulaJ

    PaulaJ Supporting Actor

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    >Doesn’t Caviezel have some aversion to love scenes - and even overtly romantic situations - in his movies due to his devout religion? I’m fairly certain he mentioned this in an interview around the time of THE PASSION (the movie, not the Passion).


    This came up when he made Angel Eyes with Jennifer Lopez. He refused to do a nude love scene out of respect for his wife. That's sweet. [​IMG] Anyway, speaking as a Caviezel fan... The Highwayman is a must-see!
     
  9. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I'm not sure Adam. The story was about Caviezel tracking down the "car" and this chase had lasted five(?) years so the director could have showed more of the chase. Instead, it added one additional character and the revenge story started there. It's like a five year revenge story that only shows the final days of the chase.

    I do agree that we're not drawn into the characters like we should have been but if we were, I think it would have added to the run time and that would have hurt the film more than it would have helped. Even at 70+ minutes there were a couple dry moments so I think any additional time would have only hurt the film.

    As much as I love 80's slashers, I think many would have been helped by less talk and more killings. I love the old Monogram films because as stupid as they are at least they only run 60-70 minutes. I mean, had BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA ran 2 hours then there's no way I could have enjoyed it on a "so bad it's good" level.

    As for the love story...yeah, the ending made it seem like they could have a future but I'm glad we didn't get a love scene in the middle of the movie.

    As for the trailer, I could have sworn this was the one I saw in front of FREDDY VS JASON.
     
  10. Scott_lb

    Scott_lb Supporting Actor

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    I saw one of the "test prints" of this movie during the spring of 2003. It was ok, and I'm interested in seeing what might have been changed on the DVD. I'll have to check it out!
     
  11. ClaytonMG

    ClaytonMG Stunt Coordinator

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    Are there trailers for other films on here? I was reading about the DVD at another site and they said that the DVD featured trailerS and I was wondering if it was more than one for this movie or just a typo...

    Clayton
     
  12. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    Just one Highwaymen trailer, though there are also clips for The Butterfly Effect, the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Frequency.
     
  13. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    Can anyone explain to me why the hell this movie was broadcast on TNT the other night????
     
  14. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    Wow, that's interesting. TNT and New Line are both owned by Time Warner, so maybe TNT got a really good deal. Did you watch it? If so, did they promote the DVD at all?
     
  15. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

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    No I didn't watch it, just a couple of minutes. I had *just* rented it on DVD and kept thinking "Wow, what an odd way to decrease DVD sales."
     
  16. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    I just finished watching this and found it to be pretty entertaining. There's no way I would have been satisfied, though, paying full price at the theater for such a short running time. But, as was stated earlier, I think anything added to the film wouldn't have improved it any. How could this have been solved? I don't know. Maybe studios could start releasing these short running movies together as Double Features. Phonebooth comes to mind as a good pairing to this film (even though it was released by a different studio). I liked that one as well, but wouldn't have liked buying a full price ticket for the short movie. However, together, I would really have enjoyed my night at the movies! Plus, this would also draw me out of my theater to the local cinaplex, instead of waiting for the DVD release.

    Anyway, I did enjoy renting this and I'll probably purchase it later down the line.
     
  17. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    I was wondering what New Line was thinking when they showed Highwaymen on TNT last Friday night (no promotion for it at all).
     
  18. Chris Rein

    Chris Rein Stunt Coordinator

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    Was it the same movie? There are a couple of movies out there with the same name as this one. Just FYI.
     
  19. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    I just rented this yesterday and really enjoyed it, especially the last shot. The first half hour was great, but, despite its short running time, I did feel it drag a bit in the middle. I thought the 5.1 Surround track was awesome! Ambient sounds from all over kept me glancing around the room trying to figure out where they were coming from! And the music track was great and crystal clear. I do recommend it as a good action/suspense film and it's still a cut above most of the big budget trash out there.
     

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