Saturday, March 19, 2005

Vanishing Point (1997) new DVD release

Jimmy Kowlaski, played by Viggo Mortensen before he became Aragorn, is a young ex-race car driver who served in the original Gulf War as an Army Ranger. He and his wife Raphinia (Christine Elise) live in rural Idaho and do not have much money. Jimmy is partners in a garage business and occasionally delivers refurbished race cars to their owners for extra cash.


He leaves his wife in bed at home to deliver a car; she is very pregnant and there is certain to be complications for her delivery because she has lupus.


When he arrives at the first delivery point, he gets the opportunity to deliver yet another car even further away from home. Along the way, he calls to check up on his wife. When she doesn’t answer one day, Jimmy calls a neighbor and finds out his wife is in the hospital and things don’t look good. He decides to drive home – really fast.


Along the way Jimmy remembers how he met his wife, her faith, and that she wanted him to become a Catholic like her as a condition for them marrying.


Problems start when Jimmy gets in a hurry going from one point to the hospital where his wife’s condition is deteriorating. Instead of stopping for the highway patrol when they go after him for speeding, he just keeps going (really fast) and causes some spectacular pyrotechnic crashes. He is helped by people along the way: a former Marine who gives him a police scanner, an Indian who shows up out of nowhere when Jimmy decides to travel through the brush instead of the road, a disaffected war vet holed up in a cave and his girlfriend, and the “Voice” of a radio jockey (Jason Priestly) who keeps the truth about Jimmy’s life alive when the FBI think he’s a terrorist.


This TV remake of Vanishing Point by writer-director Charles R. Carner (Judas) takes as its starting point a cult favorite from 1971 – which I have not seen. Carner explained to me: “I loved the originalwhen it came out (I was a high school freshman) - hadn't seen it in 25 years, decided to rent it on video - was appalled at how bad it was - but realized that the central concept was not only great, but even more timely in the Clinton Nineties than it had been in the Nixon Seventies.” 


What’s interesting about this film now is that it might make the current political administration nervous, depending on one's interpretation. Its critique of the “Man” is pretty obvious and a certain throw-back to the original film, though this is not Jimmy’s issue. He just wants to get to his wife. What might be its strongest point, the faith that Jimmy is seeking on this road trip on “speed” (automotive, not drugs) and that his wife enjoys, is a bit corny towards the end. It would have worked better if the story suggested more than what it shows.


As Carner admits, “I'm amazed we got away with so much!”


I don’t know why the has this rated “R” – I think it is an error and might be referring to the original film. This TV movie offers many themes to talk about, such as marriage, fidelity, faith, seeking, family, life in America today, the situation of the media vis-a-vis government, civil law, and morality. It’s never too clear how Jimmy’s race to the vanishing point is justified – but that’s another point to talk about, too.


(Charlie Carner and I are both members of Catholic in Media Associates here in Los Angeles, and it is a priveledge to know him and his work.)


No comments: