In a market saturated by "erotic thrillers" and cheapo alien spectacles, Showtime Networks revisits hillbilly moonshine B-features of yesteryear.
It's the 1950s, and despite his distinguished war record, Tennessee-bred Jed Muldoon (Kyle MacLachlan) is back to what he does best: smuggling illegal corn liquor in his souped-up Lincoln down treacherous mountain roads by night. Mechanic Hooch (Gary Farmer) urges Muldoon to apply his talents
instead to stock-car races while his lover, Ethyl (Maria Del Mar), wants Muldoon to take her away from town and her abusive husband, local sheriff Wendell Miller (Randy Quaid). Though Sheriff Miller has long accepted bribes from moonshiners to look the other way, he's under pressure from federal
agent Rickman (Alex Carter) to stop the alcohol pipeline and wants to put an end to Muldoon anyway. Distrusting Miller, Rickman visits the speedway and recruits hotshot racer Dwayne Dayton (Jeremy Ratchord), a former moonshine runner, to be his specialty driver in catching the high-speed
hillbillies. Things boil over when Miller murders Muldoon's pa and attempts to pin the crime on a pair of clodhoppers feuding with Muldoon. It ends with a multi-car chase that leaves Rickman and Dayton in the dust, and Miller exploded in a head-on crash. Muldoon, Ethyl, and Hooch depart for a
successful future on the racetrack circuit.
The film is flawed on many levels. The car-chase scenes are more like ritualized jousts than anything else, hindered by unconvincing day-for-night photography. The story stalls in its easygoing, low-gear narrative that idles way too long with Muldoon's indecision. Wooded Ontario, Canada tries to
pass for Tennessee hill country, the noble attempt aided by a soundtrack selection of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Billy Riley.
An Elvis-coiffed MacLachlan is surprisingly good in the rural milieu, and may have studied Robert Mitchum in THUNDER ROAD (1958) a few times. The reliable Quaid does what he can with his underwritten villain, and other roles are nicely cast right down to filmmaker David Cronenberg (SCANNERS, NAKED
LUNCH, CRASH) as a somewhat creepy good ol' boy. Writer-director Andy Armstrong puts a straight face on material too often milked for "Li'l Abner"-style camp, and there's an interesting cultural sidelight about how moonshine fueled the emerging sport of stock-car racing. (Violence, sexualsituations, substance abuse.)
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