Vanishing Point (1997 film)
|Directed by||Charles Robert Carner|
|Written by||Malcolm Hart (story)
Guillermo Cabrera Infante (earlier screenplay)
Charles Robert Carner (teleplay)
|Music by||James Verboort|
|January 7, 1997|
Vanishing Point, a 1997 television remake of the 1971 cult film, aired on the Fox television network. The remake was directed by Charles Robert Carner, and stars Viggo Mortensen, Jason Priestley, Peta Wilson, Christine Elise, and Keith David, and the same model 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T as in the original.
Jimmy Kowalski (Mortensen), a Gulf War veteran and former stock car racer, works as an automobile restorer and delivery driver at a shop in Idaho. He takes an assignment delivering a 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner to New Mexico, to pay his wife's mounting medical bills. While in New Mexico, he is offered another job: delivering a 426 Hemi-powered 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T to Salt Lake City, Utah. On the way, he's informed that his wife's already-difficult pregnancy has taken a turn for the worse, so he heads back home to Idaho, refusing to stop for police when flagged down for speeding.
An interstate chase develops. Throughout the rest of the journey he is pursued by a relentless Utah sheriff and an FBI agent who, while trying to make a name for himself and the organization after the incidents of Ruby Ridge and the Waco Siege, becomes convinced Kowalski is either running drugs or is a domestic terrorist. Kowalski is aided in his flight by a radio shock jock called "The Voice" (Priestley), a libertarian DJ with a Gadsden flag in his studio, who is constantly giving homilies on topics such as income taxes and government oppression. The Voice, intrigued by Kowalkski's run across country, sets out to find the truth about Kowalski. As he does so, he discovers the truth of Kowalski's "drug run" and that Kowalski is really rushing home to be with his wife during her now dangerous pregnancy.
Along the way, Kowalski runs into the desert where he gets lost, blows a tire, and spends the night on an Indian reservation. He finds his way back onto the road where he continues on his way to Idaho, tricking the FBI into going the opposite direction of his intended path. However, as the day rides on he falls asleep and drives into the salt flats. A woman on a motorcycle finds him just after he wakes up and informs him he has damaged his oil pan. He follows her to her hideout, where he meets her boyfriend, who is hiding from the IRS and is at first suspicious that Kowalski is from the government. After the girl and Kowalski convince the boyfriend that Kowalski is "one of them", the boyfriend offers to ride 30 miles to try and locate a replacement oil pan. He arrives back after successfully finding one but warns Kowalski that the roads and intersections are teeming with police and agents. After they help Kowalski fit the pan, the couple offers to help him with a plan to run a roadblock.
Kowalski successfully gets through the roadblock by having flashing police lights mounted on his roof and rushing at the roadblock; in the dimming light the police think Kowalski's vehicle is another police car and hurriedly let him through. However, an officer fires a shot at the retreating Challenger and blows out the rear screen. Afterward, Kowalski shuts off his headlights and vanishes into the woods, using night vision goggles he bought from the guy with the scanner. The police helicopter has infrared detectors, but Kowalski evades being seen by hiding the car under a large piece of tin. He awakens from a nightmare about his wife at 7:19 a.m., finds a phone booth, and calls the hospital, speaking to the same doctor as previously.
Kowalski then drives down the road to where the movie began. Upon seeing the roadblock, he stops where we first saw him in the beginning. A flashback reveals that his wife died at 7:19 a.m., from kidney failure. He then drives his car into the roadblock at full speed. An epilogue by "The Voice" reveals that although the authorities claim he died in the crash the body was never found, and some witnesses claim Kowalski bailed out just before the crash and escaped authorities with the help of sympathetic onlookers. A scenario is given whereby his former Mexican friend finds Kowalski's tags and shows he is now living in the wilderness with his newborn daughter.
- Viggo Mortensen as Jimmy Kowalski
- Christine Elise as Raphinia Kowalski
- Steve Railsback as Sergeant Preston
- Rodney A. Grant
- Peter Murnik as Gilmore
- James MacDonald as James G. MacDonald
- Paul Benjamin
- Geno Silva as Mike Mas
- John Doe (musician) as Sammy
- Peta Wilson as Motorcycle girl
- Keith David as Warren Taft
- Jason Priestley as The Voice
Contrast with original film
The bare bones of the plot of this remake are the same as the original 1971 film, but the number of major characters has grown. Kowalski and the radio DJ's characters have been changed significantly, and the plot is changed as a result. The DJ does not have the supernatural power to speak with Kowalski through the radio but instead seeks the truth about Kowalski's sketchy past. The Kowalski in the original actually drove for the pure love of speed borne out of a personal quest for freedom and to escape the ghosts of his past experiences. The remake however, gives Kowalski a more clear and socially accepted background and reason to drive fast. The Kowalski of the 1971 movie was an archetypal antihero, set against the backdrop of the fringe-dwelling people of the 1960s and early 1970s. The 1997 TV remake replaces the lead character's ambivalent image with a simpler and more palatable, wholesome lead character and motivations, and in particular eliminates all references to drug use, rebellion or sexuality, all of which were hallmarks of the 1971 film.