Review: ‘Rebel Highway Cool and the Crazy’

Young adults mix it up socially and physically in a '50s Southern California blue-collar environment in "Cool and the Crazy." First all live-action feature by Ralph Bakshi bears virtually no relationship, plot-wise, to identically titled 1957 film.

Young adults mix it up socially and physically in a ’50s Southern California blue-collar environment in “Cool and the Crazy.” First all live-action feature by Ralph Bakshi bears virtually no relationship, plot-wise, to identically titled 1957 film.

Married for a year, Roslyn (Alicia Silverstone) and Michael (Jared Leto) are already having problems with their marriage. Their baby’s crying interrupts their romantic moments, and when Michael gets a promotion at work, Roslyn complains that he’ll be spending even less time at home.

Roslyn’s friend, Joannie (Jennifer Blanc), has a solution: she’s having an affair with Frankie (Bradford Tatum), a (to put it kindly) hood. At first reluctant to wander, when Roslyn meets gang leader Joey (Matthew Flint), extramarital romance becomes a lot more appealing. At least, until Michael finds out.

Onto all of this melodrama, Bakshi hangs some intriguing ornaments — a romance between straight-arrow Michael and beatnik chick Lorraine (Christine Harnos); Joey’s quarreling with his nagging wife, Brenda (Tuesday Knight); and of course, the hyperdrive visual sense for which Bakshi’s animated features have been noted.

Everything in “Cool”– the ninth of Showtime’s 10-pic “Rebel Highway” series — seems to exist in pastels, and Bakshi shoots from more odd angles than any director since Sidney J. Furie in his heyday. And the closing sequences ably demonstrate how it’s possible to present strong violence without any blood being shed onscreen.

Bakshi pulls strong perfs from a cadre of youngish and largely unknown actors — anyone who remembers Knight’s loathsomely manipulative character in ill-fated series “2000 Malibu Road” won’t recognize her here as Joey’s put-upon wife, and Leto could be this week’s young Martin Sheen. If, that is, the real Sheen family ever runs dry.

Rebel Highway Cool and the Crazy

(Fri. (16), 9-11:30p.m., Showtime)

Production

Filmed in Southern California by Drive-In Classics Prods. Producers, Debra Hill, Lou Arkoff, Willie Kutner; co-producer, Llewellyn Wells; director, script, Ralph Bakshi.

Crew

Camera, Roberto Schaefer; editor, Larry Bock; production designer, Jeryd Pojawa; sound, Richard Taylor; music, Hummie Mann.

Cast

Cast: Jennifer Blanc, Matthew Flint, Jared Leto, Alicia Silverstone, Bradford Tatum, Christine Harnos, Tuesday Knight, Christian Frizzell, John Hawkes, John Kapelos, Marianne Bergonzi, Michael Lowry, Richard Singer, Joseph G. Medalis, Catherine Nagan, Rodrigo Obregon, Lisa Cash, Marc Wint, Howard Deere, Plas Johnson, Ray Johnson, Maurice Miller.
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