The Chase

Winning.
★★★
☆
Released: 
1994
Director: 
Adam Rifkin
Starring: 
Charlie Sheen, Kristie Swanson, Henry Rollins, Ray Wise
The Setup: 
Broad satire of a crime-based media circus.
Discussion: 

So having just watched Kristy Swanson display her formidable thespic talents in Deadly Friend, I knew I must explore the remainder of her oeuvre immediately. And I remembered this, which always looked like a piece of total 90s crime thriller trash in the vein of the Baldwin-Basinger The Getaway, but so trashy that they could only get Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson. So trashy, even, that it's one of those movies where Netflix has to send you an apologetic email, because the only disc they have of it is in Alaska or some shit. And that is precisely what I was sooooo in the mood for. So imagine my total surprise to discover that it's NOT a shitty fourth-tier action movie, but actually a comedy, and not only that, but a winky satire of the media! Who could have known? I ask you: WHO?

We open with a title that comes at the screen, until it shatters and reveals our story in progress. Charlie Sheen as Jack pulls into a convenience store. Swanson as Natalie is on hand, looking at magazines. Soon two cops pull up, obviously making Jack nervous. They hear a report of a stolen car, which matches the description of the car Jack is driving. Grabbing a Butterfinger bar, he pretends it's a gun and takes Natalie hostage. There starts to be comedy as the bumbling clerk, told to kick the cops' guns to Jack, slides them to the back of the store, then on the second try, slides them right past him and back to the cops. You, still expecting a wannabe badass sexy thriller, are like "Wait--are they serious?"

Jack takes Natalie hostage and they escape in her car. We then have two other cops and--wait, is that Henry Rollins? You bet it is. He's a cop with a cameraman and TV producer in the back, who are doing a COPS-like reality show. We see Rollins playing to the camera by saying stuff like "Let's go catch some bad guys," and by now the reality is starting to settle in, to one's surprise and delight, that this is just a pure comedy. So let's go!

Jack went into the store to get some cigarettes, but when the car lighter is ready, Swanson takes him and burns him with it, in a feeble attempt to escape. It falls between his legs, and soon the cushion is starting on fire. He tells her to grab it, and she throws it out the window, causing him to shout "Great, now how am I supposed to smoke?" She is doing this pouty, semi valley girl routine, which she can do pretty well and be quite charming at it.

Soon it is discovered that she is the daughter of Dalton Voss, the richest guy in San Diego, who soon shows up at police headquarters in the form of... Ray Wise! He starts barking orders at the cops, rich-guy style, and when the police call the in-car phone, Voss grabs it and starts yelling at Natalie. It soon devolves into family bickering, with Natalie responding to Voss' shouts that her mother is worried with "She's not even my real mother!" Then Natalie's real mother shows up, with her younger stupid beau-hunk boyfriend in tow. Jack grabs the phone and tells off Voss for not respecting his daughter, and this is the start of Natalie coming to fall for him.

Around now you're starting to wonder "Is this entire movie going to be one long chase scene?" and then you think, it IS called The Chase. By now a media circus has started to build up around the case, with cameramen doing crazy things to get exclusive footage, and anchorpersons saying "We have to remember there's one very scared little girl in there." One of the recurring jokes is that we then cut to the car, where Jack and Natalie are just casually chatting and getting to know each other, police cars uselessly swerving and darting in the background. Soon we have wannabe crime-stoppers--is that Anthony Kiedis and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers? Sure is--and we also spot Ron Jeremy in a cameo as a cameraman. Jack's plan is to make it to Mexico, and after long enough, Natalie doesn't want to go back.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a work of genius or a particularly sharp satire, it's just a pleasant surprise when expecting something serious but trashy. There are plenty of implausibilities, such as that the cops can only spare a few police cars for what turns into a huge effort, they never clear the highway up ahead, and for some reason can't get in front of the speeding car. But the whole thing is so silly, and plausibility not at all the focus, that you don't really care. Sheen is somewhat charming, Swanson is somewhat charming, although neither enough to stop your thinking how much better this could work with two better actors with better chemistry could have been. Aside from the increased implausibility that has come in the intervening years, this is totally ripe for a remake, given the exponentially more insane media environment today. And two really charming actors with great chemistry--kind of a crucial element for this to work--would go far to make a remake a success.

So the you are, if you like goofy satires of the madness of the modern world in the manner of I Heart Huckabees, here comes one, right out of left field.

Should you watch it: 

Not necessarily, but if you do, you might find it's much better than you expect.