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Film: The Chase

1994 movie starring Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson that goes out of its way to lampoon pretty much every single media tactic to get the scoop on the latest breaking news story.

Jackson Hammond (Sheen), an escaped fugitive, has stopped for gas and a candy bar in an L.A. convenience store, when two LAPD officers walk in. Spooked, he grabs a woman in the store, takes her hostage, and flees with her in her car. Little does he realize he's just kidnapped heiress Natalie Voss (Swanson), unleashing the biggest police chase Southern California has seen in at least a week.

The plot resembles that of the 1955 movie The Fast and the Furious (not to be confused with the modern franchise of movies of the same name.) And while there are some key differences, this movie also borrows liberally from the early Ron Howard film Grand Theft Auto - yes, the same film which (very loosely) inspired the mega-successful, hookercidal video game series.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: Natalie's kidnapping is the third crime in Jack's Crime After Crime chain, right after escaping a paddy wagon bound for San Quentin and boosting a VW.
  • Action Girl: By the end of the film Jackson has surrendered to the police but Natalie uses his discarded weapon to take a television producer hostage, exchanges the hostage with her love interest, hijacks a news helicopter and heads to Mexico. Not bad for a poor little rich girl.
  • All Part of the Show: When Natalie takes a cop hostage and uses him as a bargaining chip for Jack, her father assumes that it's all just a stupid stunt designed to humiliate him.
  • Are We Getting This?: Said repeatedly by the director of the Cops expy who happens to be riding in a patrol car on the chase...even when he himself is taken hostage by Natalie. Said sparingly by news reporters; the helicopter reporter (who doubles as his own cameraman) favors "Did you see that?"
  • Auto Erotica: Natalie has sex with Jackson in the front seat while he's still driving.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Double-subverted. Natalie copiously vomits out the window of the BMW (just after hearing that she's being taken to Mexico) and even literally pukes her lipstick off in the process. But even without her makeup she's as sexy as you've ever seen.
  • Black Comedy: The scene in which cadavers come tumbling out of an ambulance.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Yes, Natalie, he kidnapped you with a candy bar.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Jack accuses Natalie of being this - and, to her credit, she admits that it is true.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Perhaps not thinking clearly but desperate to do something, Natalie makes the wrongheaded decision during the early stages of her kidnapping to remove the cigarette lighter from the front of her car and push it into Jack's neck, hideously burning him. He screams, flies into a rage, and shoves his gun into her face, pointing out how that was a really stupid thing to do.
  • The Chase: The police chase Hammond from Los Angeles to the Mexican border.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Ari Josephson tried for his client. By the end of the movie, he's rooting for Jack to get away.
    Ari: Jack, you Anti-Hero. If you're gonna get away, get away now.
  • Clear My Name: Hammond was accused and convicted of a string of crimes he didn't commit. He ended up being sentenced to San Quentin, and rather than take his chances with a legal system which got him convicted on a technicality, he busts out, steals a car, kidnaps an heiress, steals another car, and makes a mad dash for Mexico.
  • Cool Car: She's the daughter of a multi-millionaire; of course her BMW is top notch.
  • Dramatic Irony: Most of the teevee reports speculate that Hammond planned this kidnapping meticulously, pointing out that he kidnapped the daughter of the richest man in California. The audience, of course, knows that Hammond was spooked by two cops recognizing the car he drove as a car reported stolen, used a candy bar to hold Natalie hostage, and used her car as a getaway because she was the only other one in the store at the time.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: In this case, because the passenger has climbed into the driver's lap and proceeded to have sex with him...while driving 80 miles per hour down the freeway, and the police in hot pursuit.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: So are the choppers that blow up with one gunshot from a standard issue police pistol.
  • Face-Heel Turn: More like Face to Loveable Rogue turn for Natalie.
  • Hollywood Law: Jack Hammond is convicted of bank robbery after evidence that would exculpate him is excluded on the grounds that it was improperly collected from the crime scene by the police. This is an obvious absurdity: first, improper actions by the police can only prejudice the prosecution, not the defense. Second, mere errors in collection of the evidence would not normally raise constitutional (or statutory issues) that would lead to exclusion of the evidence. That is, if the evidence (blood left by the actual thief at the scene of one of the robberies) had been contaminated, that would not be grounds for its exclusion even if brought by the prosecution, unless the contamination was total that the evidence had no probative value whatsoever. The other side would be able to challenge the evidence, and the jury would have to sort it out.
  • Hot Pursuit: And pretty exciting for (mostly) being confined to (what is supposed to be) the Golden State Freeway. (This movie was actually filmed in Texas.)
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue:
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Twice, one each way.
    • Natalie speculates that her father is using this for publicity for his potential governor's run. Cut to Voss on the phone with one of his aides instructing him to negotiate for time on all of the big morning shows.
    • One of the anchors comments that "It's easy to forget that there's a scared little girl in that car." The next scene is the one that leads to sex at 80 miles per hour.
  • Karma Houdini: Jack, an escaped fugitive (although for a crime he didn't commit), and Natalie, who destroyed a police helicopter with one shot, escape to Mexico.
  • Kent Brockman News: Given that the chase is the very kind of frivolous news story that networks love, there's a bit of an example in every one of the news stations carrying the story. Many of the examples are undercut by Ironic Echo Cuts back inside the car, with Jack and Natalie acting the very opposite way that the news team posits.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Natalie, who shoots at a police helicopter, for Pete's sake! To paraphrase Meat Loaf: I would do anything for love, anything you've been dreaming of, but I would not do that.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: What got Jack sent to San Quentin in the first place: An old lady saw him in a clown outfit, thought he was the "Red-Nosed Robber", and got him arrested. A crucial piece of evidence that would exonerate him was disallowed, and he was convicted. Obviously, Jack is no longer taking his chances with the justice system.
  • Nice Hat: Natalie's chic white sun bonnet....which is blows off as Jack is spiriting her away from civilization.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Hammond's job before he was busted was being a clown for birthday parties, which was precisely why he was busted: Some guy had been robbing banks dressed as a clown.
  • Perpetual Tourist: At the very end of the film, we see that the fugitive lovers have fallen into this lifestyle after fleeing to Mexico.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: In the early portions of the film, it's easier to feel sympathy for Jack than his 'victim'. See Bratty Teenage Daughter.
  • Pop The Tires: Sheen's character, (an escaped inmate) shoots the tires out on a police car chasing his stolen car by sheer accident as it pulls up alongside him. As this happens at high speed (the tires are popped at 90mph), it sends the police car flying, and it crashes into a series of other cars...
  • Prison Rape: "You know what they do to guys like you in prison? OH GIRLFRIEND! OH GIRLFRIEND!"
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Hammond despite being unarmed at the time. He uses a Butterfinger as a stand in. It works, way too well.
    "Makes a handy weapon in a pinch."
  • Run for the Border: Escaping over the borders to Mexico.
  • Screaming Woman: Natalie bawls hysterically during the first few moments of her kidnapping, although she eventually toughens up.
  • Spoof Aesop: Calling all repressed, conservative rich kids! If you disobey your parents, take a lot of stupid risks, and ultimately break the law, you'll end up happier than you've ever been in your life!
  • The Stinger: In a scene that is detached from the rest of the film, Jack Hammond suddenly pops up in clown makeup, delivering Colonel Kilgore's famous monologue from Apocalypse Now - in a dead-on Robert Duvall accent.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Because Jack isn't such a bad guy after all.
  • Strawman News Media: Every single media outlet in Southern California is vapid. They go to insane lengths to get scoops (including a reporter hanging onto the side of a moving van just to get a picture inside the car.) It's part of the movie's Drinking Game: Drink whenever some reporter tells you their channel is the first to bring you anything about the chase.
  • Take That: The media gets a lot of flack. See Strawman News Media.
  • That Woman Is Dead: After Jack tells Natalie that she will have to give up the name "Natalie Voss" if she goes on the lam with him in Mexico, she laughs and says: "Who the hell is she, anyway?"
  • Vanity License Plate: Natalie's BMW has the California plate "4NATLEE".
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: We don't actually see Natalie blow chunks...
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: But we do see the vomit completely cover the windshield of a pursuing police car.

Cemetery ManFilms of the 1990sChungking Express

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