Highway (2001), Cert 18.

Director - James Cox.

Writer - Scott Rosenberg.

Starring - Jared Leto, Jake Gyllenhaal, Selma Blair & John C. McGinley.


Premise - Set against the background of Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994. Las Vegas pool boy Jack (Jared Leto) is caught 'on the job' with a Vegas mobsters wife he decides it would be best to skip town. His best buddy Pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal) suggests Seattle and they hit the road. En route they encounter all manner of strange individuals, not least ageing, braided drug dealer Johnny The Fox (John C. McGinley) and hitchhiking beauty Cassie (Selma Blair).

Highway is certainly a mixed bag. On the one hand you have a film with good performances, a good use of editing and some fine direction. However on the other hand you have a bunch of unlikable characters and a plot that literally goes nowhere.

First off, don't see this film if you are looking for an insight into how fans took the death of Kurt Cobain (this was my mistake), as the film uses it as the thinnest of backdrops. Barely is the event mentioned and the vigil is only glanced at for a few minutes. It's like using WW2 as a background for your film and then barely mentioning the war throughout the film (Well, perhaps that's a little extreme, but you get the idea).

Also the characters are a bunch of unlikable sorts. Jared Leto's 'Jack' is a womanising, smug young man with no remorse even at the end of the film. Whilst Leto is in my book a fine actor this really isn't the kind of role he is suited to. Jake Gyllenhall's 'Pilot' fare's slightly better. He at least has sympathy for others, but his reason for going to Seattle is incredibly trite and his tendency to whine knows no bounds. Gyllenhall does however put in a good performance and I should keep an eye out for more of his work in the future.

Selma Blair again, gives a good performance and ditches her dizzy little girl routine that she was doing in both 'Legally Blonde' and 'Cruel Intentions'. Her charceter is perhaps the most likable in the movie although some of her motives leave a lot to be desired. John C McGinley steals the film as Johnny The Fox. The guys pick him up on the road and he just seems to hang around. This guy is clearly nuts and McGinley has just the sort of of-the-wall style to pull it off.

Add to the unlikable characters the 'plot'. The film doesn't do anything. Jack gets busted, they head to Seattle, meet a bunch of strange characters, finally get to their destination and that's it. The characters don't learn anything on their journey, they are exactly the same as when they started. Ultimately it's an unrewarding experience for the viewer.

I expected more from Scott Rosenberg, the writer behind the likes of 'High Fidelity' and the sublime 'Beautiful Girls'. Although it's telling that he also did 'Con Air', 'Disturbing Behaviour' and 'Gone In Sixty Seconds'. Talk about a mixed resume.

That's not to say the film is terrible. There is enough here to recommend a watch, just.

If you like a dark film then 'Highway' might just be up your alley. The film contains many, many drug scenes, a good bit of violence and plenty sex.

As I said the performances by the actors are quite good. Although when you have a collection of fine actors like this it would be hard not to eke good work out of them.

Most impressive though is the work by editor Craig Wood and James Cox in the directors chair. Their style reminded me of Oliver Stone (in particular Natural Born Killers). Lots of fast cuts, changing film speed mid-scene, mixing film stocks between cuts. It's an impressive visual style that struggles to lift the film above it's mediocrity.

At the end of the day though it's too little to late as a film which could have had some potential is bogged down by shoddy plotting, bad characterisation and poor writing.


4/10 for Highway.

Poster Quote - I want to get off.