Despite sterling production values and a stellar cast who've managed to tone down their excesses in other movies, THE ROAD KILLERS is a substandard race-for-safety thriller in which dysfunctional All-American family members joust vehicularly with anti-social flostsam.
A Southern California motor-trip turns nasty for two San Diego-bound families: Glen (Christopher MacDonald) and his doting son Rich (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in one car and Jack (Christopher Lambert), his second wife Helen (Michelle Forbes), and his petulant teen daughter Ashley (Alexondra Lee) in
another. Plagued by Glen's over-heated automobile, the vacationers are shocked when a joyriding quartet including Cliff (Craig Sheffer), Red (Adrienne Shelley), Tom (Josh Brolin), and Bobby (David Arquette) barely miss running over Rich on the sun-baked macadam. After Glen confronts the punks at a
truck-stop, the motor-maniacs strike back by challenging Glen to a game of chicken, which leads to his incineration in a car crash. The thrill-killers then capture Helen, Ashley, and Rich for future torture and disposal. Cliff hits Jack in the head with a baseball bat, and orders Red and Tom to
finish him off. While Cliff plots to fake a highway accident to disguise the murders of his captives, Jack (whom Tom didn't have the guts to kill) goes to a local Sheriff (Michael Green) for help, but winds up handcuffed in the police station, as the Sheriff races off to pursue Cliff and company.
Duped by Hauser (John Pyper-Ferguson), another prisoner claiming to hold a grudge against Cliff, Jack gets left behind after helping him escape. At Road Kill Central, Cliff forces Tom to murder the Sheriff, but then beats his buddy to death. Reunited with Hauser, who turns out to be his brother,
Cliff flees the scene with potential girl-toy Ashley and Hauser , while slow-witted Bobby and disgruntled Red both get shot by the highway patrol. After trigger-happy Cliff murders his brother for lecturing him, Jack ends the psychopath's crime spree by slamming his El Dorado into the side of an
In the more compelling road-travel chillers like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, a stark contrast emerges between the colorless, quarrelsome city folk driven off the beaten path and their close-knit, backroads tormentors whose familial cohesiveness enables them to gain the upper hand. Written in low gear and
acted in neutral, THE ROAD KILLERS offers no social commentary about the disenfranchised, only ill-motivated borrowings from CAPE FEAR, STRAW DOGS, and THE DESPERATE HOURS. In dire need of traveler's aid, the movie's lack of raison d'être is made more apparent because the cast members act in such
different styles that viewers are too confused to root for anyone. Lambert offers deadpan heroics; Forbes underplays like a TV soap queen; Gordon-Levitt grimaces like a wind-up child star; the predatory extended family headed by Sheffer drool their performances so their artificial approximation of
mental illness can be spotted from across the state line. Rife with meaningful dialogue about rotting souls, the grotesque ROAD KILLERS will drive flustered viewers right into the arms of the highway horror camp classic, HOT RODS TO HELL, just so they can restore their motion picture safety
equilibrium.(Graphic violence, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: Despite sterling production values and a stellar cast who've managed to tone down their excesses in other movies, THE ROAD KILLERS is a substandard race-for-safety thriller in which dysfunctional All-American family members joust vehicularly with anti-soci… (more)