director/writer: Kathryn Bigelow/Monty Montgomery; cinematographer: Doyle Smith; editor: Nancy Kanter; music: Robert Gordon; cast: Willem Dafoe (Vance), Robert Gordon (Davis), Marin Kanter (Telena), J. Don Ferguson (Tarver), Tina L’Hotsky (Sportster Debbie), Lawrence Matarese (La Ville), Danny Rosen (Ricky), Phillip Kimbrough (Hurley), Elizabeth Gans (Augusta), Ken Call (Buck), Jane Berman (Lady in T-Bird), Bob Hannah (Sid); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: R; producers: A. Kitman Ho/Grafton Nunes; Blue Underground; 1981)
“Mostly concerned about how it looks and not too concerned about its story or in making great observations.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s co-directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow (“Near Dark”/”Point Break”/”K-19: The Widowmaker”) and Monty Montgomery (an actor who became a Hollywood producer of “Wild at Heart”). This stylish slow-paced celebration of the 1954 classic “The Wild One” and all the clichés from the 1950s biker flicks, as seen through 1980’s eyes, is noted woman director Bigelow’ feature film debut as a director. It differs from The Wild One by steering clear of plot and concentrating wholly on erotic biker atmosphere, biker lingo and bikers as dandies making fashion statements posing as if for posters (which may bother some, but I found it refreshing and amusing in an offbeat way). It’s a wonderfully original arty indie production, said to be ‘the thinking man’s biker movie,’ possessing a sexy score from rockabilly icon Robert Gordon and featuring a superb Brandoesque performance by Willem Dafoe in his starring movie debut.
It has a great film setting opening scene where a lone biker clad in black leather on a desolate country road declares “Man, I was what you call ragged… I knew I was going to hell in a breadbasket.” The tale has ex-con Vance (Willem Dafoe), the emotionless cool leader of the biker pack, aimlessly going to Daytona to check out the Speedway. He stops off at a diner in a depressed Southern truck stop town and is soon joined there by his biker comrades who have to make repairs at the local gas station. Gang members include a pouty and abrasive Davis (Robert Gordon), his hot blonde babe (Tina L’Hotsky), the side-burn conscious La Ville (Lawrence Matarese), chic black leather-clad and crooked cap wearing Ricky (Danny Rosen) and the tattooed Hurley (Phillip Kimbrough). The locals resent the bunch as riff-raff, but the forlorn waitress (Elizabeth Gans) at the local diner, the only local friendly to them, envies them for their freedom to travel and the town’s teenage slut Telena (Marin Kanter) lets us in on her dark secrets as she drives Vance in her slick convertible to a black liquor store (which she refuses to enter because she doesn’t like blacks) and then a motel. Telena’s nasty redneck dad, Tarver (J. Don Ferguson), drove her mom to suicide and by the film’s end will also drive his daughter to suicide.
The film is mostly concerned about how it looks and not too concerned about its story or in making great observations. It has a pleasingly bleak hypnotic tone (which might not seem possible, but is so), summed up by the anti-hero Vance, who says “We’re going nowhere, fast.” The title says about its characters whatever the film possibly didn’t say.
REVIEWED ON 11/22/2006 GRADE: A-