The Wraith (1986)

In the world of drag racing, the stakes don’t get much higher than “pinks,” the slang term for the pink slips that indicate ownership of cars. When entered into by two willing participants, a race for pinks can be one of the most exciting spectacles possible. But there’s a term for those who force others to race for pinks, and an unlucky driver uses it freely early in The Wraith to describe thuggish Nick Cassavetes and his gang of chop-shop troglodytes. “You guys are nothin’ but road pirates,” he exclaims after Cassavetes and friends force him into a pinks race against his will. Road pirating, it turns out, is just one of their dastardly pursuits. But when mysterious drifter Charlie Sheen blows into their Arizona town, their pirating days are numbered. After striking up a friendship with Cassavetes moll Sherilyn Fenn at the local swimming hole, Sheen discovers that she’s been forced into a relationship more or less against her will and remains unmoved by Cassavetes’ displays of devotion, one of which involves forcing her to drink his blood. In fact, Fenn remains loyal to a murdered boyfriend, the mention of whom causes Sheen’s face to take on a meaningful expression, almost as if he had some sort of connection with that boyfriend. Appearing, perhaps significantly, at the same time as Sheen is a shadowy, helmeted figure wearing a rubber suit that roughly approximates the shape of the famed acting scion. Wordlessly challenging one member of Cassavetes’ gang after another, the black-clad driver and his futuristic car of indeterminate origins (one clearly visible Dodge insignia aside) win a series of lethal contests. Soon, the gang has lost such warmly nicknamed members as Skank, Minty, and Gutterboy. Only Rughead (Clint Howard) has the good sense to get out while he can, stating simply, “I ain’t got no beef against no wraith!” The wraith, on the other hand, does have a beef against Cassavetes, and even sheriff Randy Quaid can do nothing to stop it. After his quest for vengeance—accompanied in part by the music of Bonnie Raitt and Robert Palmer—reaches its conclusion, the wraith and his Dodge-of-the-future head out to parts unknown with Fenn in tow.

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