By now, those fans assiduously following the bumpy directorial career of Dennis Hopper can expect at least three things in any new film of his: a knockout selection of songs, an amazing assortment of actor-friends and an obligatory reference to his 1969 classic Easy Rider.
Chasers, a wonderful entertainment which deserves to be rescued from likely oblivion, scores high on all three counts.
It is a picaresque road movie (like Hopper's odd 1989 thriller Backtrack) but one that leans towards the often disparaged comic end of this genre – that is to say, less like Easy Rider or a Wim Wenders film than Smokey and the Bandit (1977) or Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose (1978).
The central premise recalls the popular Midnight Run (1988). Two mismatched naval officers (Tom Berenger and William McNamara) are given the task of escorting a military criminal to prison, and are duly surprised when it turns out to be a young woman, Toni (Erika Eleniak).
Naturally, the seemingly innocent Toni upsets her minders at every turn, rigging the vehicle, making several getaways and expertly playing these two male saps against each other.
As in Blake Edwards's comedies of catastrophe (such as Blind Date ), the burlesque mayhem swiftly escalates, leavened by moments of eroticism, pathos and odd, hilarious glimpses of roadside Americana.
Dwight Yoakam's songs are beautifully placed, as Hopper choreographs a delightful parade of off-beat actors including Crispin Glover, Dean Stockwell, Gary Busey and Marilu Henner.
MORE Hopper: The Hot Spot
© Adrian Martin January 1995