Saturday, September 04, 2010

Roadracers


Following up my terrific Machete experience, I decided to revisit Roadracers, the second feature by Robert Rodriguez. Produced for Rebel Highway, a Showtime series from 1994 in which a variety of directors took on the idea of re-imaging the '50s juvenile delinquent genre.

Oddly, it's the only movie from the series not yet released on U.S. DVD, although the Wikipedia page states that one was prepared and pulled in 2005. Presumably there's a rights complication, since it would seem to be one of the most commercially viable of the series. There is also an Australian DVD that is apparently not region coded.

I, for one, would love to see the 10-minute Film School and listen to the commentary on this.

The movie stars David Arquette as Dude, a rebellious young man who plays guitar and name checks Link Wray as the one person he looks up to. Deadwood co-star John Hawkes plays his Invasion of the Body Snatchers buddy Nixer. Salma Hayek plays his girlfriend.

The story revolves around a conflict with the local sheriff, played by William Sadler, and his son Teddy. The conflict is implied to be ongoing, but is escalated early on when the cigarette Dude discards out his car sets Teddy's girlfriend's hair on fire.

The movie is not humorless, but is fairly dark, and unlike much of Rodriguez's more well known movies takes a lot of time to linger on mood, perhaps a bit too much in some places, although it's hard for me to say, as the absolutely screaming Rockabilly soundtrack makes all of that work for me.

Arquette and Hayek are a nice mismatched couple, he the brooding loser and she the upbeat and hopeful girl, both hoping for better things than the small town life they've found themselves caught in, much like the generation before. Fate controls their world, or at least their struggle with it does.

The obvious reading of Roadracers within Rodriguez's oeuvre is as an anticipation of the referential style of Sin City and Grindhouse, but I think there's something here that's not seen much of anywhere else in his work, a contemplative quality as well as a cynicism that perhaps success has just made irrelevant.

I hope someone can resolve whatever is holding up a DVD release. It's an interesting movie and deserves to be remembered as a part of Rodriguez's career, since it's one of his better movies.


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