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Switchback

Starring Danny Glover and Dennis Quaid, Jared Leto and R. Lee Ermey
Written and Directed by Jeb Stuart

IN SHORT: A Talky thriller.

Any of you out there who read these things regularly know that the one combo Cranky fears most is the first time director/writer. In general, I stay the hell away from 'em if at all possible. But when they're loaded with name talent, there's no choice.

In the case of "Switchback," there was also hope that this thriller set in the Rockies would pack some punch. Writer/ director Jeb Stuart has a long list of action/thriller
screenplays under his belt, most notably "Die Hard" and portions of "The Fugitive," "Outbreak," "Chain Reaction," and "Another 48 Hours." Though no one had the slightest idea what the title
means, Danny Glover's name above it is good enough reason to sit down.

Jeb Stuart can write great characters, there's no question about it. Right down to the smallest supporting role, there were interesting things to see and distinctive character quirks. Which
is all well and good in a drama, but this thing was supposed to be a thriller slash action type flick. What it is is a first screenplay that wasn't pumped up to "Die Hard" action levels.

The premise is clever: a serial killer has been making his way through the West, using a hunting knife in an unusual manner to make his kills. Be honest -- knives are a helluva lot creepier than guns. That's why the best serial killers use 'em. The killer
is pursued by FBI agent Frank Lacrosse (Dennis Quaid) who is pursuing a personal vendetta. As to the identity of the killer, well, it could be Bob Goodall (Danny Glover) or it could be hitchhiker Lane Dixon (Jared Leto) but I'm not going to tell you. Stuart's script is very clever in pointing the finger at both knife wielding travelers, but when the secret is revealed, it's a long ride to the payoff.

That's the trouble with "thrillers." It's hard to get the right balance between character stories and out and out ass-kicking scares or action. "Switchback" lays it on thick for the former,
so by the time the latter shows up the tension is lost. [The other hard thing about reviewing "thrillers" is writing these things up without giving the guts away. So I'm bowing out early.]

The character performances are all fine, specifically R. Lee Ermey's perf as a long time Texas sheriff. The mountain scenery is gorgeous and, all in all, there's enough here to keep your
interest for most of the running time. It's well written enough that, the second you think it's safe to step out to the bathroom, something important is going to be revealed. But Cranky saw lots of people step out anyway.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to "Switchback," he would have paid...

4.00

Big splits among the folk that Cranky talked too after the "Switchback" sneak. Most of the women liked it, but weren't all that enthusiastic. The guys wanted more blood. Lots more. All seemed to agree that (had they paid for the ticket, instead of getting a freebie at the sneak) they would've preferred seeing "Switchback" on tape.


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