“Highwaymen” is one of those movies you might have heard about, but can’t exactly remember where, or what it was you heard. Not because the premise didn’t sound promising, but simply because the studio that produced the film stopped promoting it and, for all intents and purposes, pretended as if it never existed. There must be something wrong with me, because I’ve found three of these “never existed” movies to be good, solid entertainment. One was the Wesley Snipes boxing in prison movie “Undisputed”, the other featured Val Kilmer in his best role to date as a drug-addled vigilante in “The Salton Sea”, and now you can add Jim Caviezel’s “Highwaymen” to that list.
Caviezel plays Rennie, an ex-Doctor who did 3 years in prison, but is now out on the country’s highways and freeways in a souped-up Barracuda. His mission: track down a serial killer name Fargo (Colm Feore), who Rennie met 5 years ago when Fargo murdered his wife in an incident that he claims was an accident. But Rennie knows better, and after a car pursuit ends with Fargo’s body almost destroyed and Rennie in the slammer, both men are out and roaming the highways in their respective vehicles of mass destruction. Serial killer Fargo is after victims using his souped-up El Dorado Cadillac, and Rennie isn’t so much trying to stop Fargo as he is trying to kill him.
Running at a scant 75 minutes, “Highwaymen” was a struggle for the producers, and it shows. Even a blind man knows that the movie has been chopped up so much that the writers and director Robert Harmon (“They”) probably wouldn’t recognize it as the film they shot all those months ago. It’s another animal now — fast-paced, almost entirely devoid of substance, and only sporting the most cursory characterization. Which is a shame, because Jim Caviezel (“The Thin Red Line”) is quite good as the embattled Rennie, and Rhona Mitra (“Beowulf”) does the emotionally vulnerable soul so well it should be a crime.
What “Highwaymen” has going for it is the aforementioned furious pace. Not surprising, considering the movie’s “barely there” running time. Part “Mad Max” and part “Death Wish”, one wonders what the full version of “Highwaymen” must look like. No doubt the producers had taken a big ax to the original, cutting off everything they considered extraneous and only keeping the action scenes, as well as what little exposition they thought they needed in order to make the film semi-coherent. Having said that, I doubt there are any more action sequences in the unedited film, and in all likelihood the “chopped off” minutes all consisted of character development.
Alas, a short running time and lack of characterization means we never once believed Rennie and Molly are destined to find salvation in each other. We learn from dialogue that Molly is car phobic, a fear that stems from an incident where her entire family was wiped out. Making matters worst, soon Fargo is targeting Molly in his massive El Dorado, and ends up killing her best friend and then promising to come back for her. Needless to say, meeting Fargo and Rennie is no way to get over your fear of cars. Rhona Mitra does as good a job as can be expected, and perhaps a little bit more. She’s incredibly easy on the eyes, and those soulful glances and pouty lips are to die for.
Jim Caviezel has better movies on his resume, even though “Highwaymen” is not an entirely bad role for the man who would play Jesus. Caviezel does perfectly fine, even good, with what the script allows him to do. He’s got the intensity down, and when Rennie takes Molly hostage so he can lure Fargo back for another vehicular showdown, you believe that he will use her as bait. It’s too bad, then, that a night in some junkyard shack is all the “development” we get between Molly and Rennie. Instead of spending precious screentime that this edited version already has little of, the film spends too much needless moments with a Traffic Investigator.
At 75-minutes there’s little of “Highwaymen” to really get bothered by. The movie’s most creative angle must be its villain, played by Colm Feore (“The Chronicles of Riddick”). As a physically handicapped man who needs a wheelchair to get around and custom gears to help him drive, Fargo is definitely not your average serial killer. One would have liked more scenes with Fargo, and perhaps learning how a guy with such physical disadvantages could keep Molly prisoner for so long might have helped overcome some of the film’s more contrived moments.
“Highwaymen” comes and goes so fast that its many plot holes and contrivances can be forgiven. Like bubblegum, it was fun while it lasted, but once you spit it out, I doubt if you’ll think about it ever again.
Robert Harmon (director) / Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer (screenplay)
CAST: Jim Caviezel …. Rennie
Rhona Mitra …. Molly
Frankie Faison …. Macklin
Colm Feore …. Fargo