The Chase, one of the most appropriately titled movies I can remember, is just that: One big, long car chase. The first scene has bad boy Jack Hammond (Charlie Sheen) capture a young woman, Natalie (Kristy Swanson), and then embark on a car chase with various police vehicles for the next hour and a half. It’s the same plot from 1955’s The Fast and the Furious, basically, with a different ending and a couple of subplots changed. But, essentially, see one and you’ve seen the other.
Chase scenes get boring in action movies after a certain amount of time. It doesn’t matter what happens in them; they always get stale. That’s true here, which is unfortunate because it manages to last a lot longer than other films. However, after about the first hour, I had grown tired. The police really didn’t seem to be trying all that hard to stop the fugitive, neither Jack or Natalie seemed to be taking the situation all that seriously — and while that’s all good and charming for the initial bit, it eventually grows tiresome.
The film manages to fit in a love story into the mix, as Jack and Natalie eventually grow from their captor/hostage relationship to one that is amiable. The two have little chemistry, ensuring that we won’t believe in the relationship, but, then, there isn’t a whole lot of effort put into making us believe it anyway. Jack stands up to her father, who calls them on the car’s phone, in a way that nobody else ever did, and from that point on, she’s all starry-eyed. Prior to that point, she had burned him and tried to make the hostage situation as miserable as possible for the both of them.
There’s no organic growth, is what I’m saying. We instantly move from one end of the spectrum to the other without any time spent in between the two extremes. You can’t buy into them instantly falling in love because of this — especially given both how they meet and because the two actors seem so out of it that hiring a couple of budgerigars might have been more enjoyable for all the emotion put into their roles.
The actual chase gets less and less focus as the film moves on, too, which makes no sense. If the relationships was to be the focus, it needed to not peak as early as it does. We stay in the same place — love — for the majority of the film, meaning that there is no development. The chase then takes a back seat to a stale relationship devoid of growth. It makes sense to do this if we were still going to have these people grow given that the car chase simply cannot sustain a feature length film, but the way it was handled was wrong in almost every way.
What also didn’t work was the way the film almost had a running commentary regarding the chase. There is a documentary crew inside one of the cop cars, which has Henry Rollins and Josh Mostel explaining what their thoughts are about the chase and about being police officers. Meanwhile, the local news reports go to absurd lengths to get good footage of the chase and draw in viewers. And, back at the local police station, we have Natalie’s parents and the Chief of Police trying to make heads or tails of the situation.
This gets increasingly annoying and felt a lot more like filler than it should. It’s cute and kind of funny at the beginning, but by the end, when they’re repeated the same thing in scene after scene, it’s dull. Much like real news, which isn’t watched by most people for more than an hour at a time, seeing the same story over and over again gets boring. Seeing it from different perspectives gave us the chance to hear differing opinions, but everyone except Jack and Natalie think the chase is bad, for obvious reasons, and never get a deeper understanding than that.
The parts of the film that actually do involve the car chase contain some fun moments and some formulaic ones. For instance, how many movies have corpses end up being used as one of the obstacles to slow down the police? Not many, I would reckon. But there are a great deal of random car flips that you can’t believe would actually happen, and some other points that are just silly, like the ending.
I don’t want to ruin the film’s finale, but let’s just say that it involves blowing up a helicopter with a single pistol shot, as well as a little bit of misdirection on the part of a daydream. No, you haven’t just figured it out, so don’t even think that. But it is quite silly, as is the whole idea that Jack is wrongly convicted and that things just aren’t going his way. He pleads his innocence over the course of the entire film, but it never actually matters whether he did what people say he did or not.
The Chase has a bevy of weak points, but as an unpretentious piece of action movie history, it works just fine. It almost manages to sustain the excitement of a car chase for an entire movie, and while all of the elements outside of that don’t really work, that single point, and the fact that it rarely wants to be more than an extended chase scene, makes it almost worthwhile. You have to admire something that is as simple as this film is, and while it does eventually grow tiresome, leading up to a terrible conclusion, it just might warrant a watch.