Within minutes of being picked up hitch-hiking by Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell), John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) has told him he's a killer, and Halsey is next. A cat and mouse game along the California highways ensues.

The Hitcher has all the elements of a classic thriller: a simple but powerful premise, a sociopathic killer, a naive pawn who struggles to understand why this is happening to him - tension, shocks, stunts and terror.

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For a first-time director, Robert Harmon pulls out all the stops. He has drawn powerful performances from Howell, Hauer, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, as Nash. In placing The Hitcher against the wide Californian desert and mountains, he runs the risk of dwarfing the action, but the thrills and story more than hold their own.

Despite everything the film has to offer, it mostly left me cold. Ryder went beyond powerful, evil and scary, ending up simply unbelievable. For me, this undermined the entire concept and meant that I never cared sufficiently about what was happening. The blame cannot be placed on Hauer's performance, Harmon's direction or even Eric Red's script, it's just that for me it didn't quite work. I can easily see how it does for many people and why The Hitcher is held in such high esteem.

I tried hard to believe, but just couldn't, and although am willing to concede that it may well be a great film, I didn't like it as much as I should have done.

Reviewed on: 01 Aug 2003
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Thriller about a hitch-hiker with murderous intent.
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Director: Robert Harmon

Writer: Eric Red

Starring: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, John Jackson, Billy Green Bush

Year: 1986

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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