Matthew Bright’s Freeway


Matthew Bright’s Freeway is the most fucked up, disturbing take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale you’ll find, and the only time Reese Witherspoon totally cut loose, got down n’ dirty to truly give a performance straight from the gutter. You can’t spell gutter without gut, which is the primary place this film operates from, gag reflex and all, and the same goes for her wickedly funny firebrand of a performance. The filmmakers have taken every minuscule plot point from Riding Hood and deliberately thought up the most disgusting and deplorable ways to drag them through the mud, churning forth a film that is so sickeningly perverted that you can’t take your eyes or ears off it once, kind of like a fresh, glistening pile of roadkill on the interstate that induces retching, yet is compelling in a sense, even attractive in its ability to morbidly hold your attention by being something that’s outside the norm. Witherspoon is Vanessa Lutz, a trailer park baby who’s been dealt a rough hand in life on all fronts. Her kindly boyfriend (Bokeem Woodbine) is tied up in dat gang life, her mom (Amanda Plummer) is an unstable slut-bag and her stepdad (Michael T. Weiss) has a case of… wandering hands, shall we say. Vanessa picks up and leaves town to go visit her grandmother, but no sooner does she hit the road, she’s tossed from the frying pan right into the fire when she’s picked up by psychiatric counsellor Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland). Bob is your classic clean cut, mild mannered yuppie, save for the fact that he also happens to be a dangerous pedophiliac serial killer, and she’s now in his car. Vanessa is a force to be reckoned with though, as Bob soon finds out, and the two of them wage sleazy war all over the state, until one or both are either dead or incarcerated. It’s so much heinous mayhem and depravity that one reaches saturation point and just had to go with the grimy flow, either that or walk out of the theatre, but that’d make you a bitch. Witherspoon and Sutherland are having a howling good time, each sending up their hollywood image in the type of roles that John Waters or Wayne Kramer would think up some lonely night. Bob is the worst type of offender, and one has to laugh when he’s wheeled into court, facially deformed at the hands of Vanessa, and she proceeds to savagely berate him on his looks, dropping insults that you can hear whistling through the air, delivered like gunshots by Witherspoon, then only barely twenty years old, who has never been this good in any film since. Funnier still is Wolverton’s naive wife looking on in aghast horror as only Brooke Shields can do with that soap opera stare. Other talents include Dan Hedaya as a stoic Detective, Conchata Farrell, Tara Subkoff and Brittany Murphy as a creepy cell mate Vanessa meets while in holding. Anyone claiming to be a fan of Witherspoon who hasn’t seen this just needs to take the time and do so, she’s just the most foul mouthed, violent, adorably profane trashbag pixie you could ever imagine, especially when onscreen with Sutherland, who has never been more evil or intimidating. This is one fairy tale you wouldn’t show the kids, but it still stands as my favourite cinematic version of Riding Hood to this day. There’s a sequel out there somewhere too, but I can’t weigh in on it as I haven’t had the time so far to check it out. I doubt it reaches the heights of sordid delight achieved here though. 

-Nate Hill

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