The Hitcher

The Hitcher


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

That Michael Bay's got a lot to answer for. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville and now The Hitcher. Is nothing sacred?

Sticking to his exec producing formula of throwing enough money and flesh at glossing up well-worn cult classics of yesteryear for fresh outings, Bay has now lined up the Rutger Hauer-starring 1986 video favourite. Well, the picture's got a nice sheen to it and there are a few cliched jumps every now and again, but really there's little here to justify the time and money spent.

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Sean Bean takes on the blond one's psycho hitchhiker role. He couldn't ever hope to top Hauer's swagger, sneer and individual style, but he does turn in a solid performance that just about keeps things on the road. Incredibly, he's the most believable character on offer from the diminutive cast. He struggles with what little he's given but manages to deliver some pathos with the psychosis.

One night his lone John Ryder hitches a lift with Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton), two grads traveling across the New Mexico countryside in a chugging Dodge 44. They're a young, pretty and sassy couple who still decide to pick Ryder up when he's left without a ride. In the rain. In the middle of nowhere. With a knife and some singular demands. Although they manage to escape, when he frames them for a gruesome multiple murder soon they're fleeing both his relentless, violent persecution and the hick authorities.

Both Bush and Knighton are underwhelming leads whom you really just don't get to care about, partly because they give such patchy performances and partly because the film feels too rushed to invest in them properly. They scoot and scrabble across some nicely framed vistas, but at this speed and with cinematography that is too polished, clean and de-scuzzied, they never really look convincingly isolated or roughed up by the wilderness.

Fans of the original will be pleased to note that a number of plot movements and key sequences remain, including that infamous 'truck' scene, albeit with a hackneyed twist. There is also a nod to the '86 score, although the new soundtrack does deliver when a Nine Inch Nails track punctuates a crunching action scene.

Fans of the original will also note that debut director Dave Meyers' new version starts with a couple, rather than the Jack Halsey character hooking up with a partner halfway through. To my mind this is both the remake's most significant pimp and its greatest downfall. The simple story arc works better with a lone man (or woman) being pursued and victimised, with all that that and the Ryder character represents to and for him, and the audience. Original writer Eric Red had a hand in the updated screenplay and should have had a mind to what made his first effort so successful, rather than to the Bay dollars. Starting with a couple means the supposed terror becomes unfocused, generic and lame, and only towards the end does it belatedly shift to one of the pair. Combine this with a decidedly weak and predictable 'new' plot twist and you're left with the impression that Meyer and co were more interested in looks and show rather than story and substance. We're at the level of CGI-bunny-in-graphic-road-kill metaphors here, which pretty much sums up the film.

That said, with the horror genre's current renaissance heading towards its second middle age (Hostel 2, et al), new-comers to The Hitcher might want to see what all the fuss is about and old-timer fans may have a passing interest in a superficial update of their Eighties video classic. Best to wait for the cheap DVD, though.

Reviewed on: 24 May 2007
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The thumb's out for a second time around the block.
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Director: Dave Meyers

Writer: Eric Red, Jake Wade Wall, Eric Bernt

Starring: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough, Kyle Davis, Skip O'Brien, Travis Schuldt, Danny Bolero, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Yara Martinez, Lauren Cohn

Year: 2007

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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