Highway

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Highway

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Highway

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Originally titled A Leonard Cohen Afterworld after a line in Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea," Highway may be the first film to gaze back wistfully at the bygone era of the grunge-crazed early to mid-'90s. While Highway's original title and 1994 setting all promise a hilariously overwrought nostalgia trip through the recent past, they're also a little misleading. Though the film features a climax in which its protagonists stagger blankly through a Kurt Cobain vigil populated by throngs of flannel-and-piercings-bedecked Stepford slackers, it's otherwise devoid of period detail, unintentionally hilarious or otherwise. Written and produced by Scott Rosenberg (Gone In 60 Seconds, Con Air), Highway mostly uses its period setting as window dressing for a familiar road movie that filters Rosenberg's style-in-lieu-of-substance sensibility through the vision of producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Directed by first-timer James Cox, Highway stars Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal as working-class losers who decide to head west after Leto is caught in a compromising position with a hood's trophy wife. Fleeing town with nothing but a sizable quantity of drugs, they pick up hardened ex-hooker Selma Blair at a truck stop as they head to Seattle. On their way, the trio lives, learns, loves, and encounters everything from midriff-baring would-be guru John McGinley to belligerent ravers to an alligator boy desperately in need of their protection and support. What they don't encounter, however, is recognizable human behavior or plausible situations. A strange, forgettable collision of road-movie clichés and Bruckheimer-style flash, Highway operates under the impression that any scene, no matter how minor, can be improved by slow motion, gratuitous jump cuts, near-subliminal flashbacks, pop-culture references, or all of the above. Leto, Gyllenhaal, and Blair have all done good work, but they sink to the level of their material here—particularly Leto, who's further humiliated by a hideous mullet and a character who dubs himself "king of fuck," yet announces his inability to ejaculate to anyone within earshot. Rosenberg may have fancied Highway as a return to the smaller scale of his early scripts, like Beautiful Girls and Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, but it's as shrill and shallow as anything he's written.

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