Flashback Friday: Vanishing Point

Tired of movies that disappoint? Tired of plotlines that just don’t make sense? Tired of characters that just aren’t believable? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’re in dire need of the film [easyazon_link identifier=”B001JNND9W” locale=”US” tag=”bounintocomi-20″]Vanishing Point[/easyazon_link].

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Released in 1971 this film is the king of racing films. In the late 60’s and early 70’s cinemas were full of films taking advantage of Detroit’s famous muscle cars. The problem is that most of those movies sucked. They may have had a few decent racing scenes (all filmed with actual stunt drivers of course), but that doesn’t change the facts of good moviemaking.

What elevates [easyazon_link identifier=”B001JNND9W” locale=”US” tag=”bounintocomi-20″]Vanishing Point[/easyazon_link] above the mediocrity of its rivals is its simplicity. Seriously, it’s not that hard to make a great muscle car flick. If you just put together a killer soundtrack and spend half the movie on glorious shots of a 1970 Dodge Challenger you’re already halfway to greatness.

The plot is not that important, but it’s perfect for what the film needs. It features a character named Kowalski who is employed as a car transporter. His job is quite simple. People hire him to transport muscle cars cross country. In this particular situation he’s driving from Denver to San Francisco and needs to get there in less than 48 hours. Why does he need to get it there that fast? Doesn’t matter.

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Barry Newman was the perfect choice to play Kowalski. He carries that noble ruggedness about him that is essential to the characteristic known as “cool.” Like Steve McQueen, he doesn’t rely on the increasingly boring modern expectation to act “complex.” If one is to seriously examine the great characters in the western cultural tradition they’ll find the best ones are usually rather simplistic in their motivations and actions (Think Odysseus or John Wayne). That’s not to say complex performances can’t be great, but simply pointing out such performances are often unnecessary.

Admittedly there is some attempt in the film to give the Kowalski character some backstory, but thankfully for all of us it remains enough of a mystery to keep him from becoming a realistic character.

The Verdict

In short, the film is nothing short of badass. Prepare yourself for some great tunes and some thrilling muscle car action. Also, I’m not spoiling anything by saying Kowalski makes it through in the most spectacular fashion.

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