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Freeway (1996)
Rated R

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, and Amanda Plummer

Rating:
****
out of
*****

Reese Witherspoon, veteran of Fear and S.F.W., plays Vanessa Lutz, a white trash teenager with a penchant for criminal activity, in this surprisingly well done retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood."

Vanessa's life has just hit rock bottom. Her prostitute mom (Amanda Plummer) and her drug addict stepfather (Michael T. Weiss) have both been nabbed for various offenses on the same day. Vanessa, who's no stranger to this type of situation, handcuffs a youth services officer and steals her car, setting off to find a grandmother who doesn't even know she exists. But, shortly after turning onto the freeway, the car overheats and dies alongside the road. Enter Bob Wolverson (Kiefer Sutherland), who pulls up to assist Vanessa by giving her a ride.

Wolverson says he is a child psychologist and begins to probe Vanessa for information about her background. He buys her dinner, gains her trust and begins to draw information about Vanessa's past out of her fairly easily. After his questions get a bit too personal, Vanessa realizes he is the "I-5 Killer," a serial murderer who's been preying on young girls in the Los Angeles area. One of the most entertaining movies I've seen this year is off and running.

Writer/director Matthew Bright takes what could have been a standard direct-to-video, low-brow approach and turns it into a sometimes hilarious and sometimes shocking look at what happens when the trailer parks and motel rooms of America meet white-bread, upper-middle class suburbia. The "Little Red Riding Hood" storyline is updated into a scary parable for modern times.

Reese Witherspoon's performance is fantastic and fun-to-watch. Sutherland, who's never been one of my favorite actors, is also in top form. Brooke Shields, who plays Sutherland's wife, is one of the many surprises this movie has in store for an audience.

My expectations were low for Freeway, but I can honestly say that I was dead wrong thinking this was going to be standard video fare. This was simply the biggest surprise of the year movie-wise.

Trivia: Freeway was Matthew Bright's first directing job. He's also written Dark Angel: The Ascent and The Revenant. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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