Route 666 (2001) Movie Review

It comes as no surprise that the Lou Diamond Phillips starrer “Route 666,” about federal marshals that encounter murderous spirits on the titular road, is not a very good movie. As if to compound this inevitable conclusion, the filmmakers, led by director/co-writer William Wesley, have elected to shoot the movie’s action scenes using a technique made popular in far superior fare such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Three Kings.” Needless to say, Wesley only knows the technique but nothing in regards to why such techniques were invented.

“Route 666” opens and ends with the cameraman shaking his camera to give the action onscreen a frenetic feeling. Urgency, immediacy, and chaos are achieved with this effect, helped by the use of stark, bleached-out colors. War movies have used this technique to great effect (“Band of Brothers” and the aforementioned “Ryan” comes to mind). In an effort to hide the small budget and bad action choreography, director Wesley forces his cameraman to shake the camera beyond the realm of reason. The result is the visuals literally jump up and down like jackhammers on speed, reminding anyone who is seasick that it’s been a while since they lean over the railing and let out a loud heave.

An unsuccessful attempt at directing aside, “Route 666” employs another annoying gimmick called the Professional Jerk. The PJ is defined (most notably in the equally lackluster “Scorcher”) as a character that, in the final analysis, has no other reason to exist within the film except to antagonize our hero (and as a result, us) on a daily basis. It is rather disheartening to see how low actor Dale Midkiff has fallen. I once admired the man in TV fare such as “Time Trax”, but this is surely the end of a very long career for Midkiff.

“Route 666” is such a jumbled mess that it’s hard to classify it. Federal agents Jack La Roca (Phillips) and 5 other federal marshals (including Lori Petty as Steph and Midkiff as PT) are sent to escort government witness Rabbit (Steven Williams) to court. They decide to take a detour on the titular Route 666 (which is actually a sort of detour off the real Route 66, according to the film), in order to save time. Once on the road, our group of intrepid federal agents encounter former members of a prison chain gang killed decades ago. The prisoners have returned as vengeful spirits and seek the blood of the living to… Well, who cares, really?

I’m always amused that movie characters never seem to grasp the simple concept that if you shoot a ghost in the back 50 times and he doesn’t even flinch, that shooting him another 50 times in the back probably won’t matter. Thus reason dictates you should probably save your bullets (of which you have a limited supply of, being stuck on a desolate road in the middle of nowhere and all), and try another plan of attack. Not surprisingly, our rather inept, bickering, and horny federal agents (two of them gets it on in a van while the others are off inspecting graves nearby) never understand this simple concept, much to their detriment. They all die, of course, except for our 3 main characters.

I must confess to being easily entertained when it comes to supernatural-based movies. Of course you have to be, or else you’ll be questioning why this and why that all night long. For the life of me, “Route 666” is so lacking in entertainment value that even the appearance of a wise Native American shaman (have you ever seen an old Native American in movies that wasn’t wise, especially in horror movies?) didn’t make me smile.

“Route 666” would be a total waste of time if not for the charming presence of Steven Williams as the would-be star witness and the spunky Lori Petty as a federal marshal with a sharp tongue. The rest of the cast, including star Lou Diamond Phillips, takes the proceedings way too seriously, most likely because they failed to see the lack of any value — entertainment or otherwise — in the “Route 666” script before signing on.

William Wesley (director)
CAST: Lou Diamond Phillips …. Jack La Roca
Lori Petty …. Steph
Steven Williams …. Rabbit
L.Q. Jones …. Sheriff Conaway
Dale Midkiff …. PT
Alex McArthur …. Nick

Buy Route 666 on DVD