Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

aka - Two-Lane Blacktop
USA 1971
Directed by
Monte Hellman
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Two Lane Blacktop

Monte Hellman's indie classic, scripted by Rudy Wurlitzer and Will Corry and based on the latter's story, is a film of its time. This is not simply because James Taylor had hair and Dennis Wilson was a pin-up boy (as a member of The Beach Boys), but because it is so redolent of the late 1960s ethos, famously captured in Easy Rider (1969) which structurally it resembles. It is also because of its cool or "existentialist" style, that in some respects recalls Antonioni  and which was ground-breaking in its day, a manner that has long since been overtaken by the deadpan laconicism of Jim Jarmusch.

Taylor and Wilson are The Driver and The Mechanic respectively, drag racing hustlers who in their souped-up '55 Chevy take on GTO (Warren Oates), the middle-aged owner of a '70 Pontiac G.T.O in a cross-country race to Washington DC with their car's pink (or registration) slips at stake. Along the way they pick up The Girl (Laurie Bird), a hippie hitchhiker.

Largely plotless with only intermittent dialogue creating a silence only broken by GTO's boasting stories and clearly made with a relatively small budget, the film is only superficially about drag racing and more of a samurai romance (which Jarmusch addressed directly in Ghost Dog,1999), the heroic outsider protagonist(s) moving through this floating world with no attachment, although arguably the final shot of the film self-immolating in the projector's gate suggests more of a self-destructive outcome than a journey of self-transcendence.

The performances are all effective with a chronically unsmiling Taylor being surprisingly good and Oates engaging as his garrelous opposite . Harry Dean Stanton (as H.D.Stanton) appears briefly as a gay hitchhiker. Hellman, who was also the film's editor, plays fast and loose with narrative conventions having characters disappear without explanation and setting up scenes that have no pay-off but this all resonates with the era's anti-establishmentarian Zeitgeist on the one hand and its Zen spirit on the other, a combination which makes for a super-cool aesthetic.

FYI: Making her film debut here, Laurie Bird only appeared in two other films: Hellman's Cockfighter (1974) where she appeared as Harry Dean Stanton’s wife, and Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977) in which she appeared briefly as Paul Simon's L.A. girlfriend. She committed suicide in the Manhattan penthouse of her boyfriend Art Garfunkel on June 15, 1979 at the age of 25. 




Want something different?

random vintage best worst