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Freeway (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Freeway (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 25th, 2022.
    Director: Matthew Bright
    Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland, Brooke Shields, Dan Hedaya, Brittany Murphy, Amanda Plummer
    Year: 1996
    Purchase From Amazon

    Freeway – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Matthew Bright, 1996’s Freeway tales the story of a high school student named Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) who lives with her crack smoking prostitute mother Ramona (Amanda Plummer) and her lecherous stepfather Larry (Michael T. Weiss) in a rundown hotel room. When the cops bust Ramona for hooking and raid the room, they discover that Vanessa is underage and call in her social worker who tells her they’ll have to put her back into foster care. Not liking that option, Vanessa cuffs the woman to a bed and heads out to say goodbye to her fiancé, a gang member named Chopper (Bokeem Woodbine), who gives her a gun to take with her on the road before being shot dead moments later. Vanessa, you see, is going to go find the grandmother she’s never met and move in with her.

    When Vanessa’s car breaks down on the side of I-5, a man named Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) stops to offer her some help. He tells her that her car is shot and offers to drive her as far as Los Angeles. Along the way, he tells her that he’s a therapist who specializes in working with disenfranchised youth and, as she warms up to him a bit, he starts extremely personal questions. When Bob gets a little more aggressive with Vanessa than she wants him to, she pushes back at which point she realizes she’s been picked up by a serial killer operating in the area.

    As a service to those who haven’t seen Freeway, which is basically a modern day white trash retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, we won’t go into any more detail than that regarding the story of the picture, as the less you know going in the better. Way sleazier than anything you’d expect a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland to be, the movie is as well-paced as it is genuinely shocking. It’s a movie that relishes in making its audience uncomfortable, and it does that with dialogue and by building tension rather than with gratuitous sex or over the top violence. That isn’t to say that there isn’t violence in the movie, there’s a fair bit of it to be fair (and this edition, which is uncut, is stronger than past home video editions in that regard) but, for better or worse, it isn’t the violence that makes us as uncomfortable so much as it is the way that the characters interact with one another. There are examples of this throughout the movie, from the early scenes where Larry tries to molest Vanessa to the middle stretch where Bob gets her at her most emotionally vulnerable before also trying to molest her through to the scene where the cops, played by Dan Hedaya and Wolfgang Bodison interrogate Vanessa, it’s fairly constant in the picture.

    Of course, this wouldn’t be as effective as it is if the acting weren’t up to par. Witherspoon is fantastic here, a whirling dervish of unfocused anger and energy with a ridiculously foul mouth. It’s weird seeing the actress who became a household name with movies like Legally Blonde cuss the way she does here, but Witherspoon completely sells it. Sutherland is just as good. He’s creepy in his initial calmness and then when it all hits the fan, he does an amazing job of just simply seething with anger. Brooke Shields is very good as his spoiled wife, and both Amanda Plummer and Michael T. Weiss stand out in their supporting roles in early in the movie as Vanessa’s parents. Dan Hedaya and Wolfgang Bodison are also both really good here, and watch out for the late Brittany Murphy in a genuinely weird role as a prison inmate.

    Freeway – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    Freeway arrives on UHD from Vinegar Syndrome in an HVEC encoded 2160p transfer taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with HDR10 enhancement. Picture quality is really strong here, detail is excellent from start to finish and the colors look really nice throughout the duration of the movie. We get nice deep black levels and perfectly accurate looking skin tones. The image always looks properly film-like, showing no problems with noise reduction, compression artifacts or edge enhancement related issues. There’s impressive depth and texture evident in pretty much every shot. Overall, this looks great.

    A 24-bit English language DTS-HD track is provided in the original 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems to note here – the mix is clean, clear and properly balanced without any audible hiss or distortion. The score has good depth and range to it and the sound effects have a good kick.

    Extras on the UHD include a new commentary track with writer/director Matthew Bright that goes over what went into writing the film, where some of the ideas came from, why he chose to collaborate with the people he worked with on the movie, getting the project moving, editing issues, casting the film, location work and lots more. The UHD also includes an archival commentary track with Matthew Bright that covers some of the same ground but which is still worth having here for archival purposes.

    As to what’s on the included Blu-ray, alongside the feature and the same two commentary tracks, we get a series of new interviews starting with the thirty-one minute Vulgarity Is Timeless piece which interviews Bright who talks here quite candidly about what he did before getting into the film industry how he came to producer Oliver Stone's attention, the influence of Little Red Riding Hood on the story, casting the movie and the importance of getting Witherspoon and Sutherland for the lead roles, what it was like directing them, some of the themes that the movie deals with and getting former bandmate Danny Elfman to do the music for the movie.

    The twenty-four minute Murder Twins interviews actors Leanna Creel and Monica Lacy (who are identical twins in real life) about their work on the movie. They talk about how they wound up getting their supporting roles, how it differed from other projects that they'd been involved with prior, their thoughts on the film and how it was received and how much they legitimately loved working with Witherspoon in general.

    Producing 'Freeway' is a nineteen minute interview with Brad Wyman who speaks about how he came across Bright's screenplay while at Cannes, his initial thoughts on the story and what drew him to it, what it was like working with Bright, getting Oliver Stone on board, thoughts on the cast members, censorship issues that they had to deal with and getting Elfman to work on the picture as well.

    Editor Maysie Hoy is up next in the seventeen minute Changing Lanes interview, where she speaks about working with Robert Altman before joining up to work on Freeway, what the film industry was like in the nineties, thoughts on the film and it's darkly comedic elements, working with Bright quite closely, dealing with censorship problems and the film's deserved cult following.

    Actor Robert Peters shows up next in the twelve minute You're Under Arrest featurette, discussing how he got his part in the movie, initial thoughts on the script, getting along well with Witherspoon, what Bright was like as a director, how it was like being on location for much of the shoot and more.

    To Catch A Predator is an eleven minute interview with actor Wolfgang Bodison who talks about how he got his part in the movie, working on A Few Good Men before this film, getting into character and what that required, how he did and didn't get along with Dan Hedaya during the shoot and how he really appreciates having had the opportunity to be a part of the movie.

    Carried over from previous editions are some archival featurettes of note. The seven minute R-Rated Edits featurette shows off footage that was trimmed before the film could get an R-rated release. A fourteen minute interview with Bright goes over his experiences making the movie, thoughts on his cast and crew and more. An eight minute piece with executive producer Oliver Stone lets him speak about what drew him to the project and his thoughts on the finished movie. A three minute interview with actress Amanda Plummer sees her speak about her part in the opening section of the movie. Co-producer Samuel Hadida speaks for eight minutes about his involvement in the film. Composer Danny Elfman talks for four minutes about his relationship with Bright and how that led to his working on the picture.

    There's also a nine minute collection of EPK Interviews featuring sound bites from Stone, Bright, Witherspoon, Sutherland, Amanda Plummer and Brooke Shields. A second six minute EPK segment includes more sound bites from Stone, Bright, Witherspoon and Shields.

    Finishing up the extras is six minutes of archival behind the scenes footage, a video trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also done a great job with the packaging on this release, putting the two discs inside a black keepcase with reversible cover sleeve art that fits nicely inside a spot varnish enhanced, embossed slip cover designed by Robert Sammelin that is limited to 8,000 copies and available only from their website and select independent retailers.

    Freeway - The Final Word:

    Freeway is really well-made, but it’s bound to make most viewers uncomfortable – and for good reason! It deals in some seriously seedy subject matter, with a thick streak of black humor running just under the surface. The performances are great and the movie does a great job of keeping you guessing where it’s going to go next. The UHD/Blu-ray combo release from Vinegar Syndrome presents the movie uncut and in beautiful shape with loads of extras both old and new. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Freeway Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
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    Last edited by Ian Jane; 01-20-2023, 12:52 PM.
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