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Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point (Tues. (7), 8-10 p.m., Fox) Filmed in Monument Valley, Utah, and Arizona by Westgate Prods. Executive producer, Alan C. Blomquist. Supervising producers, Tarquin Gotch, Bob Lemchen; director, Charles Robert Carner; writer, Carner, based on a screenplay by Guillermo Cain from a story by Malcolm Hart; camera, Daryn Okada; production design, John Myhre; editor, Marc Leif; music, James Verboort; sound, James Thornton; casting, Victoria Burrows. Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Christine Elise, Steve Railsback, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Murnik, James G. McDonald, Paul Benjamin, Geno Silva, Joe Doe, Peta Wilson. Charles Robert Carner really loves muscle cars. Really, really loves them. The legendary MoPar V-8s of the late '60s and early '70s have motivated the director-writer to remake "Vanishing Point," the 1971 cult classic of existential pedal-to-the-metal nihilism, which starred said vehicles. And this "Point" is well-taken, a fairly entertaining paean to love and Dodge Challengers , with a subtle lead perf from charismatic Viggo Mortensen. What's exciting is the car chases across the vast desert plains of Arizona and Utah; what's not is the actual storyline, which throws "Point" into low gear. Jim Kowalski (Mortensen) is an ex-race car driver who has found peace: He's settled down and pretty wife Raphinia (Christine Elise) is pregnant, although she has Lupus. He runs a garage that restores cars; one of his clients contracts him to deliver a 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner to New Mexico, where Kowalski then picks up a '71 Dodge Challenger to deliver to a client in Utah. Kowalski constantly checks up on the very-pregnant Raphinia and learns that she's been hospitalized he must get back to his home in Idaho as soon as possible. Thus his journey begins. Naturally, a former race car driver in a Challenger with a 426 Hemi V-8 is not going to obey the speed limits, and he's promptly pulled over by some good ol' boystate troopers, who insist that he must go to the courthouse and face a trial. When Kowalski tries to explain about his wife, the police ignore him, so he bolts. And he bolts all the way to Idaho, with the local police, state troopers and the FBI on his tail. He's also trailed by the media and a disc jockey known as "the Voice" (Jason Priestly), an anti-government propagandist who wears a hat inscribed, "Live Free or Die." Kowalski is aided on his journey by an ex-serviceman (like Kowalski) who gives him all kinds of cool survivalist gear; a Native American mystic (Rodney A. Grant), who performs a "purifying" ceremony and shows Kowalski the truth; and most memorably by anti-government loon/survivalist Sammy (John Doe in a fun cameo). The makers of this "Vanishing Point" have updated the politics of the premise in a provocative way, taking the anti-government sentiments of the Waco/Ruby Ridge/Freemen crowd and rubbing off the harder edges, giving non-fanatics a reason to cheer for Kowalski. But it's the FBI that really takes it on the chin, portrayed as a bunch of vendetta-driven boobs who are repeatedly snookered by the resourceful hero. After the embarrassment of the Richard Jewell investigation, the portrayal of the FBI in this "Point" seems chillingly accurate. But "Point" and its politics don't quite gel into a satisfying whole. "The Voice" is given a face, when he should have been used as a sort of Greek chorus, adding cohesion to the narrative. The screenplay suffers from some thin law-enforcement characters with thinner motivations, and the ending is kinda goofy-mystical. Another weakness: The opportunity for a wall-to-wall heart-stopping rock 'n' roll soundtrack is wasted, replaced by a generic, though serviceable, score by James Verboort. But the car chase scenes are the telepic's highlights, expertly photographed by Daryn Okada and his crew; Carner's exciting staging of those sequences matches any action feature. Excellent use is made of gorgeously barren locations in the Southwest. Kudos to the sound men. James Thornton and supervising sound editor Dave Eichorn, who punch up the thrill level with ear-pounding engine noise. And the cars are really hot, too. Carole Horst

Cast:
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Christine Elise, Steve Railsback, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Murnik, James G. McDonald, Paul Benjamin, Geno Silva, Joe Doe, Peta Wilson.

Vanishing Point (Tues. (7), 8-10 p.m., Fox) Filmed in Monument Valley, Utah, and Arizona by Westgate Prods. Executive producer, Alan C. Blomquist. Supervising producers, Tarquin Gotch, Bob Lemchen; director, Charles Robert Carner; writer, Carner, based on a screenplay by Guillermo Cain from a story by Malcolm Hart; camera, Daryn Okada; production design, John Myhre; editor, Marc Leif; music, James Verboort; sound, James Thornton; casting, Victoria Burrows. Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Christine Elise, Steve Railsback, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Murnik, James G. McDonald, Paul Benjamin, Geno Silva, Joe Doe, Peta Wilson. Charles Robert Carner really loves muscle cars. Really, really loves them. The legendary MoPar V-8s of the late ’60s and early ’70s have motivated the director-writer to remake “Vanishing Point,” the 1971 cult classic of existential pedal-to-the-metal nihilism, which starred said vehicles. And this “Point” is well-taken, a fairly entertaining paean to love and Dodge Challengers , with a subtle lead perf from charismatic Viggo Mortensen. What’s exciting is the car chases across the vast desert plains of Arizona and Utah; what’s not is the actual storyline, which throws “Point” into low gear. Jim Kowalski (Mortensen) is an ex-race car driver who has found peace: He’s settled down and pretty wife Raphinia (Christine Elise) is pregnant, although she has Lupus. He runs a garage that restores cars; one of his clients contracts him to deliver a 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner to New Mexico, where Kowalski then picks up a ’71 Dodge Challenger to deliver to a client in Utah. Kowalski constantly checks up on the very-pregnant Raphinia and learns that she’s been hospitalized he must get back to his home in Idaho as soon as possible. Thus his journey begins. Naturally, a former race car driver in a Challenger with a 426 Hemi V-8 is not going to obey the speed limits, and he’s promptly pulled over by some good ol’ boystate troopers, who insist that he must go to the courthouse and face a trial. When Kowalski tries to explain about his wife, the police ignore him, so he bolts. And he bolts all the way to Idaho, with the local police, state troopers and the FBI on his tail. He’s also trailed by the media and a disc jockey known as “the Voice” (Jason Priestly), an anti-government propagandist who wears a hat inscribed, “Live Free or Die.” Kowalski is aided on his journey by an ex-serviceman (like Kowalski) who gives him all kinds of cool survivalist gear; a Native American mystic (Rodney A. Grant), who performs a “purifying” ceremony and shows Kowalski the truth; and most memorably by anti-government loon/survivalist Sammy (John Doe in a fun cameo). The makers of this “Vanishing Point” have updated the politics of the premise in a provocative way, taking the anti-government sentiments of the Waco/Ruby Ridge/Freemen crowd and rubbing off the harder edges, giving non-fanatics a reason to cheer for Kowalski. But it’s the FBI that really takes it on the chin, portrayed as a bunch of vendetta-driven boobs who are repeatedly snookered by the resourceful hero. After the embarrassment of the Richard Jewell investigation, the portrayal of the FBI in this “Point” seems chillingly accurate. But “Point” and its politics don’t quite gel into a satisfying whole. “The Voice” is given a face, when he should have been used as a sort of Greek chorus, adding cohesion to the narrative. The screenplay suffers from some thin law-enforcement characters with thinner motivations, and the ending is kinda goofy-mystical. Another weakness: The opportunity for a wall-to-wall heart-stopping rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack is wasted, replaced by a generic, though serviceable, score by James Verboort. But the car chase scenes are the telepic’s highlights, expertly photographed by Daryn Okada and his crew; Carner’s exciting staging of those sequences matches any action feature. Excellent use is made of gorgeously barren locations in the Southwest. Kudos to the sound men. James Thornton and supervising sound editor Dave Eichorn, who punch up the thrill level with ear-pounding engine noise. And the cars are really hot, too. Carole Horst

Vanishing Point

Tues. (7), 8-10 p.m., Fox

Production: Filmed in Monument Valley, Utah, and Arizona by Westgate Prods. Executive producer, Alan C. Blomquist. Supervising producers, Tarquin Gotch, Bob Lemchen; director, Charles Robert Carner; writer, Carner, based on a screenplay by Guillermo Cain from a story by Malcolm Hart;

Crew: Camera, Daryn Okada; production design, John Myhre; editor, Marc Leif; music, James Verboort; sound, James Thornton; casting, Victoria Burrows.

Cast: Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Christine Elise, Steve Railsback, Rodney A. Grant, Peter Murnik, James G. McDonald, Paul Benjamin, Geno Silva, Joe Doe, Peta Wilson.

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