Reviewed by: David Stanners

The Seventies spearheaded a thriller genre, based around the mysterious killer vehicle. Classics, such as Spielberg's Duel and The Car, bought into a basic, frightening concept of a machine that kills - remorselessly, anonymously. The magnetic fear these films instilled into their audiences was due largely to the mystery driver - if there was one. The point is, we never really got to know and the problem with Highwaymen is that we do.

When Rennie's wife is brutally cut down by a serial hit-and-run driver in front of his eyes, he makes it his life vocation to track down the killer, regardless of the cost. As a renegade vigilante, operating above the law, he tracks and chases his nemesis from state to state, playing cat and mouse games with CBs.

When Molly (Rhona Mitra), the hitman's next target, enters the picture, Rennie (Jim Caviezel), moved by her beauty and resemblance to his late wife, plays a dangerous game of his own, using her as bate to draw the killer closer.

Director Robert Harmon - responsible for the far superior The Hitcher - has relied on a series of spectacular car crashes and stunts to bolster his effort in a rather jaded genre. What starts out promisingly is severely jolted by revealing Fargo (Colm Feore), the ruthless killer, as a laughable combination of Robocop and The Terminator.

Confined to a wheelchair, after Rennie's initial attempt to finish him off, Fargo, surgically reassembled, moulds himself to his death machine in preparation for a new season of high-speed human steam rolling. Naturally, he possesses the cliche hallmark of every serial murderer, collecting mementos of each victim along the way.

We learn of his tormented childhood, fascinated by pictures of horrific crashes from his father's car insurance business. Slowly the character unravels, allowing tension to catch fire, only to be smothered by a wet blanket, when he reveals himself, effectively robbing the crescendos of their unnerving atmosphere.

Cars, appearing from nowhere to taunt and intimidate nervous men on the road, have been test driven brilliantly by the likes of Spielberg, but are now showing high mileage. After all, Harmon himself demonstrated how it can be done 18 years ago in The Hitcher.

Now, with Highwaymen, he attempts a modern hybrid of the open faced killer/mystery car suspense scenario. Instead of opting for one, or the other, the arcane elements are compromised and, in the end, spoiled by a lame outfit.

Reviewed on: 01 Jul 2004
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A vigilante goes on a road rampage to avenge his wife’s death.
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David Haviland **1/2

Director: Robert Harmon

Writer: Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, Colm Feore, Gordon Currie, Andrea Roth, Noam Jenkins

Year: 2003

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada


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