Roadracers – Review

5 Mar

I don’t think that I’ve talked about Robert Rodriguez on this blog yet, which is strange because he is one of the biggest inspirations to my style of writing and, hopefully, directing. He enjoys all things over the top, as you can see in his films such as DesperadoPlanet Terror, and Machete. Before all of this insanity was El Mariachi, the little indie film that put him on the map. What I’m sure many people don’t know about was a little TV movie he made for Showtime, Roadracers, which was made right before Desperado.

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Dude (David Arquette) is a 1950s greaser who spends his days cruising through town with his girlfriend Donna (Salma Hayek), getting into fights with his rival Teddy (Jason Wiles), and making trouble for the local sheriff (William Sadler). His entire life has been spent this way: moving fast but going nowhere. Now that Dude is beginning to grow up, he’s beginning to realize that he needs to get his act together and possibly follow up on a very possible music career, or get left in the dust and remain in the town. The pulling between the two factors pull Dude harder than he can handle, leading to a violent climax that will decide where Dude’s life will take him.

The first thing I noticed about this movie was the use of the character name “Dude.” Does that ring a bell for anyone? The Big Lebowski anyone? Funny thing is that Roadracers came first. I think that’s pretty interesting since The Dude from Lebowski is thought of as such a goofy and original character name. I mean no disrespect to the Coen Brothers, I enjoy their work and consider them two heroes of mine, but Rodriguez was first! This isn’t what I want to talk about though. After El Mariachi, Rodriguez made this film for Showtime which was doing a series of made for TV movies called Rebel Highway, that were homages to 1950s B-movies. The series featured big name directors like William Friedkin, but Rodriguez was, at the time, unknown.

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Like Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez has made his career off of making films that hearken back to the days of video stores and all of the strange genres that lurk in their darkest corners. In that respect, Rodriguez is the perfect choice to be a part of this series. Strangely enough, this was before he made his stylistic mark. It seems like he was born for this style of film making. Still, this was before he really found his niche, and it shows. The plot begins to jumble and ramble in the second act leaving me thinking that it could’ve have realistically been an hour long or maybe a little over. And hour and a half felt like a stretch.

I will say that the movie was better than I expected, but I wasn’t really expecting much. I laughed a lot in the beginning and I really liked how cheesy all of the ’50s style is played. It’s all over the top and romanticized while being satirized at the same time. Let’s compare it to one of my favorite films, Rebel Without a Cause. James Dean plays a character who is also beginning to grow up and learn that he needs to start making adult decisions without relying on adults. This is played very seriously, and almost tragically. Dude in Roadracers also needs to make these decisions, but they are played so over the top and comedically. Rebel Without a Cause  and Roadracers both critique the society of the time and the fact that cliques and classes are so separated, it made life for these young people difficult.

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Roadracers is an alright attempt by Rodriguez, although it is nowhere near as great as his next film, Desperado. By that point, he’s found his style and locked onto his ability and made a great film. This one, however, is pretty sloppy and got pretty boring by the midway point. It’s pretty silly, made me laugh, and the ending is abrupt, yet awesome. It still could’ve been a lot shorter and the narrative much cleaner. Unless you’re really a die hard fan of Rodriguez, skip this one. If you’re a huge fan and interested in all of his work, lower your standards and give it a quick watch. It’s very mediocre.

 

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