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The Chase Reviews

This routine Charlie Sheen action vehicle follows an immense car chase from San Diego to Tijuana. Director Adam Rifkin effectively pokes fun at television news coverage, but the narrative is unimaginative and thoroughly exploitative. Jack (Sheen), wrongly convicted as a bank robber, kidnaps wealthy heiress Natalie (Kristy Swanson) from a convenience store, where he's been cornered by two police officers for stealing a car. Jack and Natalie flee in her red BMW toward the freeway, followed by several police vehicles. On the road, Jack explains his innocence to Natalie, who slowly learns to accept his story. While the news media track the fugitives' movements, the police set up a roadblock at the Mexican border, and Natalie's real estate tycoon father (Ray Wise) uses the publicity for his upcoming election campaign. Trying to get on television, two hippie types (Flea, Anthony Kiedis) try and fail to stop Jack and Natalie with their own mini-roadblock. Later, as night falls, Jack and Natalie make love as they approach the border. The police roadblock fails to stop the runaways, but Jack eventually stops the car, surrenders to the police in order to allow Natalie to return to her family. But Natalie, who's estranged from her parents, holds a TV director hostage instead, and she and Jack steal a helicopter in order to escape into Mexico as fugitives. THE CHASE owes less to the 1946 Robert Cummings adventure-melodrama of the same name, or even the 1966 Robert Redford adventure-melodrama of the same name, than to Alfred Hitchcock's adventure-comedies, with their familiar stories of captured women and roguish but innocent heroes on the lam. Motifs are also lifted from 40s noir--including the ending from DARK PASSAGE (1947)--but THE CHASE has none of the craft or finesse of these classics, and more closely resembles (artistically at least) the other bad films in the notorious Charlie Sheen oeuvre (e.g., NAVY SEALS, MEN AT WORK). The best parts of writer-director Adam Rifkin's screenplay are the spoofs of hyperbolic local TV newscasts, featuring actor Cary Elwes and real-life anchors, like Bree Walker, in cameo roles. Unfortunately, THE CHASE spoils its most solid material with overemphasis and a hypocritical subtext. Jack, for example, piously rails against the tabloid nature of the shows, but the film exploits the same material in a similar way (with car crashes, explosions, etc.) The film is also depressingly conventional in its attitude toward wealthy, whiny Natalie. Her character performs the most traditional female role imaginable--the woman who comes to love the misunderstood loner, even to the point of "servicing" his sexual needs (while being chased at high-speed on the freeway yet!). This last scene produces the film's camp highlight (the dialogue is also laughable--Natalie checks on Jack's marital status before straddling him), and provides the obligatory coupling of the two stars in the most awkward and ridiculous way possible. Like bigger A-action films, THE CHASE is full of cartoonish violence. However--especially with allusions to the Rodney King beating incident inscribed into the TV news coverage subplot--it's distressing to see our supposed hero running over pedestrians (off-screen, although the bump is clearly heard) or causing explosive pile-ups of police cruisers. Despite its anarchic leanings, THE CHASE is no BONNIE AND CLYDE, or even NATURAL BORN KILLERS: the film simply refuses to acknowledge either Jack's destructive impulses or his complicity in the carnage, and its anti-authoritarianism is mindless and cynically contrived. One might hope that the lighthearted treatment of the kidnapping plot alone would be enough to sour viewers, but THE CHASE is geared toward a jaded young audience, who might just accept the whole thing as one big joke.