“Nobody stops for strangers!”
Here’s a familiar situation. A young couple named Grace and Jim, played by Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill television series) and feature film newcomer Zachary Knighton, leave their respective schools for some rest and relaxation. As they pass through New Mexico on their way to a spring break destination they encounter hitchhiker John Ryder, played by Sean Bean (Patriot Games, Lord of the Rings film series), a.k.a. The Hitcher.
The fun-loving couple begin to realize that doing the right thing is hard, especially when you’re on the road and have limited cell phone power (oh, when will we learn to stop depending on technology so much).
The couple has a few Bonnie & Clyde type moments, but the writers eventually choose to focus on Grace’s gradual transformation from fun loving student to female action hero. “It’s going to be okay”, says Jim. “No, it isn’t,” foreshadows Grace.
Neal McDonough (Minority Report, Flags of Our Fathers) plays local law enforcement Lieutenant Esteridge who arrives on the scene as Grace and Jim find themselves in a downward spiral of misfortune and misunderstandings. A convenience store clerk factors into beginning set-up, but is never seen again (police only mention him). A missed opportunity for some more plot twists/surprises or a fairly clever decoy – you decide.
Luck, fate or coincidence all come into play as screenwriters screenwriters Jake Wade Wall and Eric Bernt forge a decent and largely unpredictable first and second act. Writers increase the drama with innocent victims caught in Ryder’s visceral path. Each character’s actions follow reasonable logic, but don’t look for deeper reasons for the actions beyond pure evil (Ryder) and survival (just about everyone else).
The audiences don’t typically root for the bad guy but he might make you curious. Is Ryder really that lucky, or is he an excellent tracker. Maybe this resourceful antagonist has a military background. Unfortunately, the plot never addresses his background very much, which hurts the overall ending because the audience doesn’t understand his motivation very well. When Lt. Esteridge asks Ryder the quintessential question, “Why?” he quickly responds with, “Why not?”
The finality doesn’t have a high emotional impact. Consequently, audiences might echo one of the character’s final quips – “I don’t feel a thing.”
Based on the 1986 film with the same title starring Rutger Hauer, this film comes recommended with several reservations (*1/2) and is rated R for gore, language and violence.