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Film / The Chase (1994)

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A 1994 action-comedy 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 movie franchise of that 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 Aiming Skills: At one point Jackson points his gun at a police car next to his. We don't know if he intended to fire, because he hits a bump that jars his hand, pointing the gun down and making him fire. The cruiser's front tire explodes and the car flips.
  • 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 the documentary director 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.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Jack's lawyer, Ari Josephson, has a very Jewish-sounding name. Ari and Joseph are, of course, both Hebrew names, and Ari especially is uncommon in the United States among non-Jews.
  • 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?"
    "You're makin' my Emmy!"
  • Auto Erotica: Natalie has sex with Jackson in the front seat while he's still driving.
  • Babies Ever After: In the closing scene, Natalie is pregnant while she and Jack are living it up in Mexico.
  • 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.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Natalie Voss.
  • 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 TV 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.
  • Drives Like Crazy: As it's a high-speed car chase, naturally. Bonus points for Jack getting it on with Natalie (with Natalie climbing into his lap and sitting in front of him) at one point in the chase.
  • 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 so 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. And finally, the defense could still point to the fact that this evidence was improperly collected as having given enough reasonable doubt to acquit their client... and this could also be brought up at the actual Red-Nosed Robber's trial, were they to ever catch him. In other words, if the police screwed up that badly, they would have just jeopardized ever actually bringing the culprit to justice. In the scene where this is explained Josephson (Jack's lawyer) is clearly aware of how messed up this is and is using it as an example of how his client was railroaded through the courts. The prosecution's only piece of evidence seems to have been that Jack owns a clown outfit.
  • 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.)
  • Imagine Spot:
    • After Jack tells Natalie about his job as a clown and it leading to his arrest in a case of mistaken identity, there's a brief moment where we see him from her perspective and in full costume.
    • At the end of the chase, Jack imagines himself leaving the car to face the cops, flipping his hand at them sarcastically, and getting shot to death in a Suicide by Cop scenario.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Jack shoots out the tire of a cop car driving at 90 MPH. Of course it really was improbably as Jack fired accidentally after hitting a pothole while pointing the gun. The shot causes the helicopter reporter to speculate that he was a Marine sharpshooter.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: At the end, Jack imagines going out in a blaze of glory...but comes to his senses.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Several.
    • After Natalie learns how Jack was arrested in the first place, she tells him she couldn't picture him as a clown...following an Imagine Spot she's doing just that.
    • 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.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Because Jack isn't such a bad guy after all. But it's an interesting case, because much of Natalie's actions later in the film stem more out of spite toward her parents than sympathy for Jack. Of course, they end up together in Mexico in the end.
  • 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Voss is specifically referred to as "California's version of Donald Trump". By extension, this would make Natalie a (somewhat older) fictionalized Ivanka Trump.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Signature Headgear: Natalie's chic white sun bonnet....which is blows off as Jack is spiriting her away from civilization.
  • 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. It's also a Brick Joke: An earlier scene had Natalie imagining Jack as a clown when she learned about how he got arrested.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): The Chase