The spring of 1994 was an interesting time at the box office. The number one movie of the weekend would make around five million dollars most weekends until May. One exception was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective opening to $12 million, and Four Weddings and a Funeral hung in there steadily adding $5 mil a week and became a sensation. Most new movies didn’t make enough to last a few weeks. I remember the theaters being empty on Friday and Saturday nights. It was strange but I was still there dutifully every week. Even playing in a relatively empty theater, The Chase blew my mind and made me excited about what movies could do. It still didn’t play very long, and never sold out, but it reached me.
Escaped con Jack Hammond (Charlie Sheen) stops at a gas station. Spotted by cops he takes Natalie Voss (Kristie Swanson) hostage and leads the cops on a 90 minute car chase. Natalie is the daughter heiress of Dalton Voss (Ray Wise)so the chase becomes a media sensation.
An action comedy about a car chase with a hostage taker was obviously up my alley. I didn’t expect The Chase to be so relentlessly thrilling and darkly comic. The Chase had me the moment Natalie got car sick and her vomit splattered on the police windshield. Another highlight is a medical school truck dropping cadavers on the freeway. Bad Boys II did that same gag and played it straight nine years later.
For a movie set entirely in a car they came up with plenty of set pieces. An accidental gunshot causes vehicular flips. Bystanders (Anthony Kiedes and Flea) try to intervene and cause a crash. The Offspring music got me hyped.
There are ebbs and flows where they have dialogue (or sex) in the car or cut to news coverage. The cops are still in pursuit and it’s well paced. The editing style (cutting on whip pans so it’s always in motion) may have seemed excessive in 1994. Now it’s quaint in light of Bourne Supremacy editing nonsense.
Back in 1994 on the verge of the O.J. Bronco chase, I already appreciated the satire of media coverage of the chase. The lead cops (Henry Rollins and Josh Mostel) in pursuit are being filmed by a Cops-like reality show. The local news hypes up the fear-mongering. Instead of cable news sensationalizing it, it was all the local channels competing for their own angle and they get pretty outrageous. The car phone may be the most dated aspect of The Chase.
Back then a Charlie Sheen vehicle (pun intended) wasn’t out of the ordinary. Sheen was working steadily in movies before he became a sitcom star and all his public meltdowns. He was no guarantee of asses in sears but he could have hits like Hot Shots and Major League. The Chase, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them. Swanson was also a staple in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
When Speed came out a few months later I’d insist The Chase was better. Both had escalating action set pieces but I preferred the cadaver truck to the freeway jump, and The Chase didn’t tack on a third act on another vehicle. They did everything they could with a car and wrapped it up before it stretched too thin. I totally get why Speed connected with more people but I was the twisted kid who liked The Chase.
I’d recommend The Chase to people and they thought I was talking about The Getaway remake. They were working against a lack of interest in both films. The generic title The Chase might have caused some confusion. I don’t think anyone remembered the 1966 Brando film, but there was a movie called Chasers out a month later so the trailers were confusing people simultaneously.
Vehicular action would come a long way in the 25 years since The Chase. I’m not sure 16-year-old Fred could’ve handled faster, more furious movies like Mad Max: Fury Road or Furious 6. I would highly recommend the “also confined to a car” movie Kidnap too, but The Chase was the fastest, most furious movie of 1994.