a critiQal film review The Chase (1994)

  • DVD

Plot: Convicted of a crime he didn't commit, Jackson Davis Hammond (Sheen) is on the run. Stopping at a gas station to fill up when a couple of cops get suspicious, he grabs a random hostage and takes off with her in her car. Unfortunately for him, his hostage is Natalie Voss (Swanson), sole daughter of billionaire mogul Dalton Voss (Wise). Now being pursued by both the cops and the media, Jackson's only hope lies in crossing the border to Mexico.

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When I saw The Chase was available on NetFlix® Instant Queue, I just had to give it a look. After all, I had good memories of this Charlie Sheen/Kristy Swanson chase flick, and wanted to re-visit it to see what I liked so much about it – and if it would hold up today.

Before he lowered himself to Two and a Half Men (TV), Charlie Sheen was a rather intense actor, starring in epic films like Platoon (1986) and Wall Street. Even amongst films like those, however, he slummed it, starring in spoof films like Hot Shots or dumb comedies like Men at Work.

It’s the dumb comedies and spoofs that set up him for The Chase, to play a role straight-faced that, really, is rather ridiculous. His earnestness in the role really throws the viewer for a loop, since they aren’t quite sure how to take his character. Is it a serious role, or is it being played for comedy? Too many viewers thought serious, and the critics ended up panning the film.

Kristy Swanson, known for starring in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (only to be replaced by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the series, a move Kristy is probably still regretting), is a good fit for the rich princess-type brat she plays in The Chase and has decent chemistry with Sheen.

But it’s Henry Rollins, as a cop whose self-importance shoots through the stratosphere when he and his partner are filmed by a reality show rip-off of Cops (TV), that really steals the show. Spending most of the movie careening after Sheen and Swanson, Rollins gets to spew out some of the funniest lines of the film, all while giving the impression he actually means it when he says he doesn’t know “whether to catch bad guys or sign autographs” as he equates his job to that of a celebrity, or other equally egomaniacal statements. The viewer can tell he’s trying to boost his importance for the camera, even without the sidelong looks his partner gives him, and it’s a blast watching him to see where else his ego trip will take him.

The Chase has a simple setup viewers have heard bits of time and time again. The wrongfully accused man gets in over his head and ends up taking a hostage, who just happens to be the daughter of the richest man in the state, and they get in her car and speed off, with cops hot in pursuit. At first, that just seems like another ho-hum storyline, but right from the start, The Chase gives an inkling that it’s not just another on-the-run flick. As Sheen’s Hammond tries to get a hapless store clerk to kick two police officers’ guns to him, the guy lines up, and proceeds to kick the guns to the far end of the store…twice. Toss in the fact that Sheen’s Hammond is taking his hostage with only a candy bar shoved into her back, and suddenly a seemingly tense situation seems downright hilarious.

As the media swarm over the ensuing car chase, hyping the danger while continuing to erroneously report developments, their news report graphics add fuel to the fire (“Terror On The Freeway” dripping in blood eventually turns to a picture of Swanson’s Natalie behind bars and tied up with the headline “Kidnapped at 100 MPH!”) and the reporters efforts of being first with an exclusive continue to get crazier and crazier, the viewer begins to think the film is more about the media over-sensationalizing events, rather than just a simple chase flick.

But, by the time day turns to night in a quick 10 mile stretch of highway, the viewer is struck that a slam on the media may not be to only victim in this satire – instead, action flicks themselves are being laughed at as well.

If you sit down to watch The Chase, and are expecting some high octane action you can really get behind, you’re going to come out disappointed. Oh sure, there are some over-the-top explosions and car crashes along the way, but you’ll be missing the real fun of The Chase. Come into the film preparing to laugh at media frenzy, an egomaniacal cop strutting for the cameras and a satirical poke at action movies in general, however, and The Chase should be a laugh riot.

Take a ride with The Chase and prepare for some action comedy it’s okay to laugh at.

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