Highway 61

1991, R, 102 min. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Starring Valerie Buhagiar, Don McKellar, Earl Pastko, Peter Breck, Art Bergmann.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Aug. 14, 1992

You might not recognize the devil when you meet him, and redemption might not look like much up close, but the freedom you find on the road will likely lead you to both. That's just about all the message I came home with after this road movie that stretches from Thunder Bay, Canada to New Orleans, USA. Pokey, an aptly named barber in small town Canada, thinks he's reasonably content with his life until he finds a dead body in his backyard and a beautiful rock & roll roadie in his barber chair. The two events are connected when the woman announces the body's her brother and declares her intention of taking him home to New Orleans. We know she's stuffed the body full of white power and is using it as a very inconvenient mule to transport drugs across borders and cross country but Pokey is taken with the romance of this woman's ostensible journey, and after a quick soul search discovers he's due for an adventure, so he gallantly offers to take the lady to New Orleans. This bare bones plot is convenient as a device for getting us through the heart of America, through Memphis, into the Mississippi Delta and to New Orleans. These seekers don't take the more commonly travelled path to the west and the Californian promised land, they head south on an inward journey. Backed by a great soundtrack, we enjoy privileged views of America from the point of view of bemused visitors. Much of it is landscape we've seen before; some of it follows the same track as Jarmusch's Mystery Train when it pulls into Memphis. But other images are lovely, amazing, or funny views of an America that come to us as a gift. Unfortunately, these images are utterly unconnected except by the highway. Pursuing the young adventurers is a slicked back Pastko, who just may or may not be the devil but who, either way, is definitely crazy. Though his discovery that souls come a lot cheaper these days is amusing, he serves little purpose other than to give us something to cut away to, and a minimum of tension. Really, it's a shame that McDonald and writer/lead McKellar give us little clue as to what they're after here, because their film is likeable enough make us want to sign on the dotted line.

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Highway 61, Bruce McDonald, Valerie Buhagiar, Don McKellar, Earl Pastko, Peter Breck, Art Bergmann

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