Starring David Arquette, Salma Hayek, John Hawkes, William Sadler
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
Roadracers isn’t a genre film, per se. For those that don’t know it, it was originally part of a series of Showtime original movies produced back in the mid-90s. I caught it back then and found it to be a fairly stylish and interesting little production that never quite found its audience. Considering the recent announcement of Robert Rodriguez going back to Sin City, coupled with the fact that this Blu-ray just landed on my door a week ago, I figured why not dust it off and talk about it.
It’s a throwback to the 1950’s – only Rodriguez isn’t interested in mining much glossy nostalgia from the setting. Instead the story of Dude (David Arguette) is a pressure-cooker of mounting tension and simmering violence. Dude’s your archetypical 50s “rebel” – into fast cars, loud music and gorgeous chicks (in this case, Salma Hayek). He clashes with authority at every turn: police hate him, parents find him detestable, etc. If that wasn’t enough he crosses paths with a rival greaser and before you know it a series of pissing contests escalate into a naturally violent conclusion.
It’s a fairly simple movie, and a remarkably assured one. Performances are strong, the dialogue is snappy (William Sadler’s bit about pigs in a blanket is a shining example of both these things) and Rodriguez brings a really likable energy to the proceedings. There’s an especially fun sequence where Dude takes his date roller skating, only to be chased on the rink by the enemy gang looking for payback. But Dude’s a quick-thinking guy and his resolution of the scene encapsulates the kind of cartoony fun that Rodriguez is perfectly tailored to. Looking back on this, it’s sad to note his recent offerings have gotten progressively worse and worse. There’s such a style here that it’s a shame to see what he’s done with it recently (ie- not very much).
Roadracers is well-paced, moving like a bullet for 94 minutes. It’s almost impossible to be bored throughout as even the smaller bits are massively entertaining. Future indie movie creep staple John Hawkes shows up as Dude’s only friend, a marginally demented guy with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers obsession (there’s even a Kevin McCarthy cameo!). The whole thing sort of plays out like a cross between Rebel Without a Cause meets Streets of Fire (minus dueling sledgehammers and epic Jim Steinmann songs, natch), and that alone warrants a recommendation for anyone who might’ve missed this little gem.
Echo Bridge Entertainment brings Roadracers to Blu-ray in a solid 1080p transfer. Colors are bright, detail is impressive and contrast is strong. I didn’t detect much in the way of edge enhancement or other inherent flaws. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t reference material by any means, but fans of the movie should be pleased with this modest PQ offering.
The DTS HD MA 5.1 track is pretty good. Music is textured while dialogue remains clear and prominent. Sound effects tend to fall a bit shy of satisfying – and the ambient speakers aren’t as vibrant as they could be – although I was overall pleased with Echo Bridge’s presentation here.
And there’s extras! An audio commentary with Rodriguez in which the director offers up lots of information on the filmmaking process. There’s also a ten minute featurette that encompasses all aspects of shooting the film. Both pieces are well worth the time of Roadracers fans, offering some extra value on this already well-priced product.
Roadracers is a nifty little flick and it’s nice to finally have it on Blu-ray. Echo Bridge puts together good PQ/AQ and the tiny sampling of extra materials certainly sweeten the pot. Fans of this one should be satisfied with the presentation, if not blown away, while newcomers should find plenty of enjoy with the pulpy nature of Rodriguez’s story and execution.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5