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'The Chase' (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 04, 1994

There are moments during "The Chase," the extremely lame road comedy starring Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson, when the actors look almost desperate. When you look into their faces, their eyes say, "Help me."

And who wouldn't have a look of panic? The movie delivers exactly what the title promises: one long, uninterrupted car chase. Jack (Sheen), imprisoned for a bank robbery he didn't commit, escapes and, by accident, picks Natalie (Swanson), the daughter of a Trump-style tycoon named Voss (Ray Wise), as his hostage. It's a simple premise, but in this case simplicity is not a virtue. And the level of hilarity here is not high: Less than five minutes into the movie, Jack's passenger gets an upset tummy from all the excitement and tosses her lunch onto the windshield of the car following them. Brilliant, you say? Well, hang on then, because just down the road, a med school supply truck scatters frozen corpses all over the highway.

As you might expect, the going is rough at the beginning for Jack and Natalie. He thinks she's a brat, and she thinks he's, well, a kidnapper. But when Voss gets on the line to negotiate Natalie's release, he reads her the riot act for causing him so much trouble, and Jack shuts him up by ripping out the car phone, instantly becoming his hostage's new best friend.

As the impromptu couple heads for the Mexican border, their friendship develops further, though you don't really want to know the details. Suffice it to say that the whole affair is a preposterous mess, and that neither the actors nor writer-director Adam Rifkin come out of it with their reputations unscathed. Sheen delivers about what is expected of him -- a sort of callow, B-list star turn. But because Swanson had shown such promise as a light comedian in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the stumblebum way she moves through her scenes is a disappointment. Then again, with a script as forced and artificial as this one, perhaps no one could have made a good show of it. For just this once, let's not cut to the chase.

The Chase is rated R for language and sensuality.

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