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A PHD in Whiskey and Stonerology

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A PHD in Whiskey and Stonerology
The Fabulous First Review:

Oh, Vanishing Point (1971). If you don't know already, this is the car chase movie. Starring Barry Newman as Kowalski, the story... well, there really isn't one. Kowalski, employed as a car delivery driver, makes a bet with his biker friend that he can get from Denver to 'Frisco in two days, flat, in his 1970 Dodge Challenger. What ensues is a rowdy mix of high-speed action, glorious panoramic vistas, and oddball characters that spans several states. A blind radio DJ takes on decides to become Kowalksi's guardian angel, warning him of roadblocks and informing him of popular support.

Actually, we might as well segue from that to the low point of the film as a whole, which involves said DJ. A group of racists decide to take him down (for an unknown reason), and storm his station, shattering the windows and savagely beating both him and his valiant friend. Now, the scene is very well executed and indeed quite powerful, but the reason I'm knocking it as Vanishing Point's deepest dip is the fact that it's totally unrelated to the rest of the film. Sad that it goes to waste, because it would have worked well as its own movie (the scene in which the DJ makes his triumphant return to his station is especially powerful, and I won't spoil it here).

Now that we've put the major issue aside, we can move on to the minor ones. To begin with, there's suspension of disbelief. Any sort of GH film requires it, but Vanishing Point, at times, asks too much of us. In one scene, for example, Kowalski races another driver. As the two come around a bend, jockeying for position on an upcoming narrow bridge, Kowalski bumps his rival aside and sends him plummeting down a 15 foot embankment and into a river, upside down. The car looks like scrap, understandably, but somehow its driver clambers out unscathed and stands there in the water scratching his head as Kowalski burns rubber (after courteously stopping to ensure his victim's relative safety). In addition to requiring that we abandon all semblance of realism, Vanishing Point prompts a certain level of confusion. Its many flashback scenes are only loosely explained, and I had a hard time figuring some of them out until after the credits rolled.

But the strengths of Vanishing Point far outweigh its flaws.

Vanishing Point manages to convince us of Kowalski's position as "the last great American hero" without ever providing real evidence as to why. Instead, it sublimely makes us believe that speeding at 100 miles per hour across half the country while running Johnny off the road left and right, driving over and through fragile desert habitat, and generally being a free bird badass is evidence enough.

Furthermore, many of the driving sequences in Vanishing Point, especially those featured from a panoramic viewpoint, inspire chills of Lord of the Rings levels, and the movie features an enticing sense of fair play. Combine this with some truly excellent driving and a spine-tingling, heart-breaking, and paradoxically elation-inspiring final sequence and you've got one hell of a good time.


He's called Tequila. He's a tough cop.
Wow dude, awesome format. Nice reviews too. Looking forward to more.
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That review almost makes me feel bad for disliking Vanishing Point.
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.

A PHD in Whiskey and Stonerology
Yeah he was great. As I said I think a movie telling his story would be pretty cool, though of course now it would just look like a less-entertaining offshoot of Vanishing Point.