Red Line (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Ah, yes, Red Line ... a brilliant Terrence Malick war film which meditates on the nature of mortality.

What's that you say? Oh, that was The Thin Red Line? Well just think of this as another Red Line, but not as thin: a Red Line with real substance.

I think I should mention that the aesthetically inclined Mr Malick had nothing to do with this film. This one was directed by John Sjogren, who also give us such comparably aesthetic achievements as "The Thief and the Stripper." It's essentially a mob story with a cast that can best be described as eclectic. It features Michael Madsen, Corey Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Julie Strain, Roxana Zal, Chad McQueen and Jan-Michael Vincent. (It's sad to see Madsen and DeLuise having fallen so far from the a-list.)

Red Line synthetic motor oil ( not only gave the film its title, but managed several product placement opportunities within the script. Normally, I'm a little uncomfortable with that kind of commercialism, but in this case, it was the highlight of the film. Besides, the director needed the money. They spent so much on car crashes that they could only afford one of the two Corey's. (Feldman wore a Sgt. Pepper coat to play a mobster, and had sex with 6'2" Julie Strain, who is nearly a foot taller!)

Chad McQueen plays a professional driver who is down on his luck when he gets a couple of lucrative but dangerous repo jobs from a mobster (Vincent). It turns out that the first one is just a test. Chad gets paid four grand to steal a Ferrari from under the nose of an even bigger mobster, and does so successfully. After such a success, he is hired to steal a car full of hidden diamonds from the police impound garage. McQueen gets greedy. He was hired to do the job for twenty grand, but decides to ask for $200,000 when he deduces the value of the car plus the diamonds.  Eventually, he figures out that he's in big trouble with both mobsters, and the only way out is for him to play them against each other. 

I guess that about half of the movie is driving and chase scenes, and about half of that footage was shot from a hood cam, which demonstrates how McQueen negotiated the twisting seaside roads, the L.A. River, the circuitous suburbs, and the warehouse districts, all to elude various mobsters and law enforcement officials. I think you'll really like the movie if you enjoy watching other people play video driving games, because that is exactly what this film is like.

Actually, the police were just props in the film. They would be chasing him for a while, and he'd simply slip away. They'd never call for back-up or helicopters or anything. When he evaded the police, he would keep driving around town in his unique wrecked white car with blue racing stripes, and he was never bothered by John Law, as if the police figured, "Well, he got away from the original pursuit, so he's free to go." He didn't even bother to re-paint the car after he escaped.

That wasn't the only silly thing in the movie. At one point he drops off his girl and tells her to wait, because he's about to get in a dangerous pursuit. He drives through about twenty streets to get out of the warehouse district. This is all shot with a hood cam. Trucks come out of their bays, cars cross in front of him, and he has to avoid them  - as I said, earlier, just like watching a video game. But the silly thing is that he drives for ten minutes to evade some baddies, including the usual stint through the L.A. River, and ends up crashing into a wall head-on to avoid a little girl on a bicycle, with the baddies hot on his tail.

Now you aren't going to believe what happens next, but this is what really happened:

1. Cut to his girl, witnessing the crash from the sidewalk, putting her hands to her face in terror. Remember, he dropped her off miles back.

2. Cut to him walking out of the car with some diamonds, just before the explosion. But - wait a minute - where are the bad guys that were just a few seconds behind him, and the reason he was driving so fast in the first place? Gone - and no further mention of them.

Got the idea? Top-notch stuff.

I thought that the only interesting thing about the movie was Jan-Michael Vincent's appearance. He made this film only days after his near-fatal wreck. In one scene you can see that he's actually wearing his hospital ID bracelet. His face was nearly destroyed by the accident, and the film was made while it was still early in the healing process. Vincent's face is filled with bruises, discoloration, swelling, stitches, missing flesh on his lips, you name it. They just wrote it all of that into the script. He refers to himself as "looking like Frankenstein," and some of the other characters also refer to his face. In addition to the facial distortion, he had trouble talking (his teeth, lips, and tongue were all damaged in the accident), and he couldn't do any physical activities, except standing and a little walking. I think he delivered about 75% of his lines while talking on the phone, and most of the rest sitting down. Considering his condition, it's impressive to see him acting at all, but he actually delivers a pretty solid characterization. Took a hell of a lot of guts, because the man must have been in some serious pain. 


DVD info from Amazon

  • no features
  • no widescreen



Roxana Zal is topless after a sex scene with Chad McQueen.

Julie Strain is seen naked, full frontal, in a daylight skinny dip. She also is seen later in a dark topless scene, while she has sex with one of the Two Corey's

The Critics Vote

  • No reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a surprisingly high 4.6/10
  • With their dollars ... no theatrical release
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D.

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