Wags who lament that films from bygone eras can’t be made successfully with ‘ 90s sensibilities need to catch “Motorcycle Gang,” the latest of installment in Showtime’s 10-part “Rebel Highway” series of films.
Patterned after late ’50s/early ’60s drive-in pix distribbed by Sam Arkoff’s American Intl. Pictures, the series could have poked fun at the films by camping them up.
Instead, the producers have wisely chosen to pay homage, and in this outing, the result is a creatively interesting, visually enticing, taut two hours of suspense.
Gerald McRaney starts off doing his best “Major Dad” reading, as Cal, ironically a no-nonsense ex-Marine who must move his family cross-country to a better job in California.
Car trouble, undesirables who fancy Cal’s nubile and flirty young daughter, a wife with a roving eye and photo ops at highway view sights are among the trip’s expected developments.
But the character development that takes place through dialogue as the trio moves along the interstate is top-notch stuff, with closeted skeletons and unfulfilled dreams revealed in a manner that should strike home with viewers.
Scripters Kent Anderson and Laurie McQuinlan leave no emotional stone unturned, while incorporating action in proper doses. The combination keeps the pic moving as quickly as Cal’s car on Route 66.
So when the anticipated kidnapping of Cal’s virginal Leann (Carla Gugino) by a gang of two-wheeling misfits (led by Jake Busey) finally occurs, viewers have been prepped.
Elan Oberon also checks in with an entertaining presence as Jean, Cal’s typical ’60s-era housewife, who feels moments of dissatisfaction with her relationship, but stands by Cal at all costs.
Busey’s perf is strong as he alternately torments and cons everyone in his path.
Director John Milius clearly put the telefilm’s approximately $ 1.3 million budget on screen, and ably pulls out strong perfs from a talented cast.