BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer
I didn't particularly want to like Freeway, but I couldn't help myself. Reese Witherspoon made me.
The movie is of a genre that's been beaten senseless by hordes of hip, young writer-directors in love with Quentin Tarantino. The low-life characters, the lurid colors, the explosive mayhem, the mocking tone, the ironic dialogue. It's been, not to put too fine a point on it, done.
The difference in Freeway is Ms. Witherspoon (Fear), a gun-toting rendition of Little Red Riding Hood named Vanessa who takes off, complete with a basket, to find her grandmother after her hooker mom (Amanda Plummer) and psycho-druggie stepdad (Stephen T. Weiss) are hauled off to jail.
When her stolen car breaks down, she hitches a ride with Keifer Sutherland, playing a youth counselor named Bob Wolverton (get it?), the killer who's been murdering prostitutes along the highway.
Turns out he's no match for our heroine; she may be illiterate, but she's no pushover. She walks away with all his money, while he lies bleeding on the ground.
He survives, horribly disfigured, and with his pushy wife (Brooke Shields) ensures that she is convicted of highway robbery. A jail-break and a change of heart by the police bring everybody to grandma's door all at once for a bloody finale.
Ms. Witherspoon almost single-handedly keeps the movie from sinking into same-old, same-old banality. Her lost little girl is whip-smart, romantic, vicious, loyal, dangerous and thoroughly winning.
You may not want to ride cross-country with her, but as long as she's up on a screen, you won't mind meeting her in the dark.
IF YOU GO:
(R; gory violence, harsh language, drug use) Reese Witherspoon, Keifer Sutherland, Brooke Shields, Dan Hedaya, Anmanda Plummer. 110 minutes. At The Movies.