For this week’s EXPLOITATION ALLEY, I thought it’d be nice to head back to the good ol’ year of 1994, and take a look at the fun as hell homage to ‘50s rebel greaser movies, the Robert Rodriguez film ROADRACERS. So, put on your leather jackets, grease up your hair and pull out your switchblades, it’s time to rumble!
In 1992, Robert Rodriguez made by far one of the most impressive debuts of all time, EL MARIACHI. The stories surrounding the making of that film are notorious, with Rodriguez lending himself to experiments to raise the money, teaching one of the leads Spanish as the film went on, and most impressive of all, making the film for only $7,000. EL MARIACHI put Rodriguez on the map, and his follow up was the debut episode of Showtime’s REBEL HIGHWAY film series, in which directors would be chosen to make ‘50s era films but with current actors and a newer edge. Like every series in the similar vein, some of the films were good and some weren’t too impressive, but as a whole it was a pretty enjoyable series, especially ROADRACERS.
The film follows “Dude” Delaney who is played perfectly by David Arquette (the SCREAM series, THE TRIPPER). Dude is a greaser who has dreams of getting out of the small town he lives in and becoming a guitarist for a rockabilly band, but can’t seem to escape being tormented by Teddy Leather, a local bully (Jason Wiles, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, a Bon Jovi video, etc…) who along with his father/local sheriff (played with gusto by William Sadler, THE MIST, DIE HARD 2) continually goes out of his way to make Dude’s life a living hell. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Selma Hayek (DESPERADO) playing Donna, Dude’s girlfriend, and Nixer (Dude’s eccentric best friend, played by current indie favorite John Hawkes, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, WINTER’S BONE). It’s a fun cast who never plays the film as a cheesy parody of the ‘50s, but instead a fun homage that keeps you laughing the whole time. Hawkes is surely one of the best parts of ROADRACERS , as he plays Nixer hilariously, a character obsessed with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS who acts as Dude’s comic sidekick, licking box office windows to creep out girls, and getting philosophical over a plate of fries. It’s great to see Hawkes getting the recognition he deserves these days, because he’s most definitely paid his dues over the years.
Though the whole cast all have their good moments in the film, the center point of the movie is all on Dude and his ongoing feud with Teddy and his father. The sheriff has it out for Dude based on an old beef between him and Dude’s old man, and continually pushes Teddy into going after Dude, causing the feud between them to grow with every attack, beginning with Teddy picking up on Donna, throwing a ketchup bottle at Dude’s head and so on. Dude definitely fights back though, doing his best to make Teddy even more vicious. One of my favorite scenes plays out with Teddy challenging Dude to a race and Dude throwing his cigarette into Teddy’s car and accidentally into the hair of Teddy’s girlfriend. The shot of the car speeding off and the girl’s head on fire makes me laugh everytime I see it. When Teddy and his gang of losers decide to go after Dude at a skating rink, Dude decides to put an ungodly amount of grease in his hair and right when the gang is about to get him, he bends down and runs his hair on the ground, making the gang slip on the grease and accidentally pulling off the wig on top of the singed head of Teddy’s girlfriend. The film plays like that for a good amount, silly back and forth jabs between Dude and Teddy, and it’s fun to see who’s going to up the other person during its course.
Though it’s a fun time for most of the film, where it really kicks in, is when things begin to get serious. Tired of playful jabs, Teddy decides to kill Dude, and pretty much doesn’t let anyone get in his way of doing so, taking out his own gang when they try to stop him. The whole last quarter of the film plays out with Dude and Teddy pretty much trying to kill each other, and though there’s a subplot going on featuring Dude getting his chance with a rockabilly band and blowing it, the focus doesn’t spend too much time on that, it’s all about who’s going to kill who. Only one of them is left standing at the end and though it’s pretty obvious who the badass is (it’s not Teddy, that mullet..yikes), I’m not going to give the ending away. I’ll let you all find out what happens for yourselves, but it’s well worth checking out, a fun as hell throwback to the rebel badass films of back in the day that never takes itself too serious, instead having fun the whole time. Until next week folks, have a good one!
*not sure why there’s a thank you to Rodriguez at the end of the trailer, but it’s the best copy that I could find.