Joshua Tree (1993 film)
French language poster for Joshua Tree
|Directed by||Vic Armstrong|
|Produced by||Andy Armstrong
|Written by||Steven Pressfield|
Michael Paul Chan
|Music by||Joel Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Daniel L. Turrett|
|Editing by||Paul Morton|
Stone Group Pictures
|Distributed by||Vision International|
|Running time||106 minutes|
Joshua Tree, also released as Vanishing Red (バニシング・レッド) and Army of One among other names, is a 1993 action film directed by Academy Award and BAFTA-winning stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, written by Steven Pressfield and starring Dolph Lundgren, Kristian Alfonso, and George Segal. Much of the film was filmed in the Alabama Hills of the Sierra Nevada and the desert of the Joshua Tree National Park of southeast California.
Wellman Anthony Santee (Dolph Lundgren) is a former racecar driver who has turned to a life of crime since the death of his mother. Santee and his friend Eddie Turner (Ken Foree) bend the law for profit by hauling exotic stolen cars.
Santee's latest assignment is to transport suspicious goods across the desert, but a Highway Patrol cop pulls him over. Turner tries to reason with the cop.
But then a pair of cops named Frank Severence (George Segal) and Jack "Rudy" Rudisill (Beau Starr) show up. There is a gun battle in which Turner is killed, and Santee is wounded. Severence murders the highway patrolman, and pins it on Santee.
After recovering in a prison hospital, Santee escapes during transfer to the fictional San Gorgonio Penitentiary and takes a hostage named Rita Marrick (Kristian Alfonso), not suspecting that she's a cop.
Rita keeps her identity a secret from Santee while Rita's partner Michael Agnos (Matt Battaglia) leads the search for Santee and Rita.
As Santee eludes capture with the help of Eddie's widow and child, Severence and Rudisill horn in on the investigation. Rita's sole escape attempt fails and nearly forces Santee to shoot law enforcers, and she begins harboring doubts about Santee's guilt.
Santee releases Rita and invades Severence's home, forcing his wife Esther (Michelle Phillips) to provide the phone number of former associate Jimmy Shoeshine (Michael Paul Chan), from whom he demands payments due to him and Eddie.
Santee is rejoined by Rita, who finds evidence in the house supporting his claims, and they escape, barely evading gun blasts from Esther and a highway patrolmen.
At Jimmy Shoeshine's warehouse, Santee handcuffs Rita out of harm's way and decimates the car thieves' lethal mechanics. Severence and Rudisill arrive and are forced to kill the interfering Michael.
Rita, devastated by Michael's death, joins Santee in a desperate race for life. As Severence and Rudisill close in, a crime scene officer discovers a surveillance tape that recorded Severence killing Michael.
Santee fatally snaps Rudisill's neck during a cliffside struggle. Just as he is about to execute Severence, the police arrive. Severence is taken away, and Santee is vindicated.
- Dolph Lundgren as Wellman Anthony Santee
- Kristian Alfonso as Rita Marrick
- George Segal as Lt. Franklin L. Severance
- Michael Paul Chan as Jimmy Shoeshine
- Beau Starr as Jack Rudisill
- Geoffrey Lewis as Sheriff Cepeda
- Nick Chinlund as Deputy Tomay
- Ken Foree as Eddie Turner
When the film was released on VHS and laserdisc in the United States (last territory worldwide) in the fall 1994, the distributor Live Entertainment changed the title to Army of One to prevent confusion with the U2 album. Until February 2013, with the release of the Blu-ray from Shout Factory the film had never been released in the US under its original title or in the correct aspect ratio, a delay of nearly 20 years.
Of particular note is the atmospheric and highly melodic musical score for Joshua Tree was composed by Joel Goldsmith and is widely regarded as one of the film's best features. To date, the score has not been released on CD.
Joshua Tree was filmed in Super 35 with a printed aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (a.k.a., 2.35). Naturally VHS releases of the time only showed the film in a pan and scan (European markets) and open matte release. Until recently, the film had not been released in the United States in its original aspect ratio, though it was available on DVD in anamorphic widescreen in France (where it had been released theatrically). That version was dubbed in French, however, with no original language audio track.
Upon its VHS release in the UK in 1994, the BBFC cut a large amount of violence from the film. Despite still being given the 18-rating, almost every blood squib, entrance wound, exit wound, moments of excessive gunfire, mutilations and graphic death were cut from the film. This is especially evident in the scene where Santee is involved in a chop shop warehouse gun battle with dozens of Chinese mafioso as the music jumps all over the place and characters seemingly warp from one side of the set to the other. The UK VHS has been out of print for a number of years and there is no DVD release there.
The French Region 2 DVD runs two minutes shorter than the uncut theatrical release and VHS; two scenes in which Rita lights a cigarette are cut and the love scene scene between her and Santee is shortened. This edition is believed to be mistakenly made from a master originally made and edited for French TV channel TF1.
A Bow to Raoul Walsh, Sam Peckinpah and John Woo
When resting in a sleazy motel, Santee watches Raoul Walsh's High Sierra on TV. Rita notices him watching with interest and draws parallels between Santee and Humphrey Bogart's character as the 'hero who goes down with all guns blazing'. Joshua Tree was also filmed around many of the same locations as High Sierra, such as the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California.
Joshua Tree also contains clear references and homages to Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw (the shoot at the grocery store and the cop cars at the bus station), as well John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, The Killer (and possibly Hard Boiled but it had not been officially released when the movie was in production) (the garage shoot out). When director Vic Armstrong apologized to Woo for copying him the Hong Kong director replied "Don't worry Vic, I've been stealing your ideas for years"!
Another film reference is the 1973 cult classic "Electric Glide in Blue" directed by James William Guercio.
Three different endings
According to the December 1993 issue of Impact, "The producers felt that the final showdown in Vic Armstrong's directorial debut didn't live up to the stunts that had preceded it, and do asked for a reshoot."
The original ending has Santee shoot Rudy with the Uzi from the top of the ridge many times. Severence grabs Rita and tells him to give it up. Santee appears and says "I'm here, Severence. Let her go!" before stumbling down the ridge. But Severence overpowers him and kicks him off the edge of a cliff by stomping on his bloodied hands. As Severance is about to kill Rita he and Santee fight over a revolver. Rudy is still alive and they both shoot him before Santee pulverizes Severence with his fists. Just as he is about to crush his head with a boulder Santee says "This is for Eddie", which is followed by a brief black and white flashback. Severence says "Go ahead, kid. I'd do it to you" before Santee is interrupted by the police. Severence is then arrested by Sheriff Cepeda (Geoffrey Lewis) who claims he has seen the CCTV footage of him murdering Deputy Agnos back at Jimmy Shoeshine's (Michael Paul Chan) warehouse. There is a denouement in which Santee is back at his father's ranch with Rita (now wearing her police uniform). He mentions the fate of Eddie's wife and son before kissing Rita goodbye.
The second ending, released theatrically in France and available on the unrated Artisan Entertainment DVD and the French region 2 DVD has an extra fight scene between Santee, Severence and Rudy. Santee only shoots Rudy from the ridge once and Rudy is knocked out as he hits his head on a rock. Santee's descent from the ridge is shorter. His fight with Severence is the exact same but as he kicks Santee of the cliff his hand does not have as much blood on it as it did before. Immediately after landing on a ledge Santee starts climbing back up the cliff. Severence teases Rita about killing her but is interrupted by Santee, who is then interrupted by Rudy holding an AK-47 to his head. Santee gives up and is beaten down by Rudy and Severence. Just as they are about to kill him Rita intervenes and claims that if they do, they will never get the money he took from Jimmy Shoeshine. Even though the suitcase is hidden under a low railroad bridge elsewhere, Santee pretends it is hidden nearby. This gives him a chance to get the upper-hand over Severence and Rudy and bushwhacks them. All three of them fight but Severence is the first to run off as it is clear he is losing. Rita then beats him with a stick. Santee and Rudy are still fighting but he gets Rudy in a headlock. Rudy's last words before Santee breaks his neck are "Eddie was just a nigger." With Rudy dead Santee rushes back to Severence to stop him from hurting Rita. He pulverizes him and is about to finish him off with a boulder but there is no flashback and no mention of Eddie. The cops arrive and Severence is cuffed by Cepeda.