Switchback (film)

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For other uses, see Switchback (disambiguation).
Switchback Poster.jpg
Directed by Jeb Stuart
Produced by Mel Efros
Keith Samples
Jeb Stuart
Gale Anne Hurd
Written by Jeb Stuart
Starring Dennis Quaid
Danny Glover
Jared Leto
Ted Levine
William Fichtner
and R. Lee Ermey
Music by Basil Poledouris
Edited by Conrad Buff
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
(United States)
Rysher Entertainment
Release dates
  • October 31, 1997 (1997-10-31)
Running time
118 min.
Language English
Budget $38 million[1]
Box office $6,492,660

Switchback is a 1997 western thriller starring Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, Jared Leto, Ted Levine, William Fichtner and R. Lee Ermey, set in Amarillo, Texas and moving through New Mexico & Southern Colorado. It was written and directed by Jeb Stuart.


A woman is killed while babysitting a young boy; the killer takes him when he leaves the house. A few months later a man and cleaning woman are killed at a motel in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo's longtime sheriff, Buck Olmstead (R. Lee Ermey), is up for reelection. Both he and opponent Jack McGinnis (William Fichtner) are eager to be the one to solve a big murder case before Election Day. Meanwhile, a hitchhiker named Lane Dixon (Jared Leto) is picked up by Bob Goodall (Danny Glover), an affable drifter.

FBI agent Frank LaCrosse (Dennis Quaid) turns up in Amarillo and tells Olmstead he is in charge of tracking down an elusive serial killer, the person he suspects is responsible for the murders. Olmstead discovers that LaCrosse has been taken off the case by superiors because the boy kidnapped is his son Andy (Ian Blake Nelson). LaCrosse is more determined than ever, now that the cases are linked. He teams up with the reluctant Amarillo police department to continue his investigation.

The tactics of the FBI agent concern Olmstead at first, particularly after finding out LaCrosse's personal conflict in the case. He also worries that coooperating with the suspended FBI agent might cost his own job.

Dixon is suggested as a prime suspect in the murders. But, with LaCrosse on his trail, it is revealed instead that Goodall is the killer. At a mechanics' shop he kills again, drawing a knife on a mechanic. Later, Goodall and Dixon befriend each other, and Goodall tells the hitchhiker about his son. He asks Dixon to promise to look after him if anything should happen to Goodall. Dixon agrees and Goodall gives him the boy's address.

Shortly after this, Goodall's overconfident driving along the treacherous icy roads causes the car to careen off the side. Goodall is trapped in the driver's seat with the car hanging from a branch on the mountainside. Dixon was thrown free in the snow. He climbs through the passenger window and cuts Goodall free with the man's knife. Dixon in turn is saved by Goodall after almost falling to his death while trying to retrieve his backpack.

Still later, Goodall and LaCrosse battle on the side of a train, after the agent closes in on him. Goodall tells LaCrosse that he will have to kill him to find out where his son is, and falls off the train laughing. He tumbles down a hill and is impaled and killed by a broken branch of a fallen tree.

LaCrosse grieves for believing his son is lost forever. Dixon cannot speak since Goodall slit his throat. He realizes Goodall gave him a clue to the boy's whereabouts, and writes in the dust on the floor of the train. LaCrosse goes to that address; he finds his kidnapped son playing in the backyard of a house next door.



Switchback received negative reviews from critics and holds a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews. The film bombed at the box office, grossing just $6 million domestically off a budget of $38 million.


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