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‘The Wraith’ (PG-13)

By Paul Attanasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 26, 1986

"The Wraith" is a ghost who has returned to earth in a juiced-up black sports car to take revenge against a gang of killers and car enthusiasts. The head thug, Packard (Nick Cassavetes), is possessive of his girlfriend Keri (pillowy Sherilyn Fenn), sometimes murderously so -- years earlier, he caught her making love with a fellow named Jamie. Poor, dead Jamie.

Meanwhile, a fellow on a motorbike named Jake (Charlie Sheen) shows up and begins romancing Keri, which gets Packard's jealousy boiling till it rattles. And if you can't figure out that Jamie and Jake and the Wraith are all the same person, you probably haven't seen many movies like "The Wraith."

"The Wraith" is essentially a wall-to-wall car chase that writer/director Mike Marvin attempts to enliven with TV commercial visuals, tough-guy dialogue (on the order of "Awright, you craterheads") and modestly inventive casting. There is a running routine, for example, between Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian), who Marvin tries to make into Abbott and Costello for morons (if you can imagine such a thing); then again, there's a nice turn by Clint Howard as Rughead, a mechanic with Coke-bottle glasses and a soufflé pompadour.

There is all too little of the quietly charismatic Sheen and all too much of Cassavetes, who is a dead ringer for the young Hugh Hefner.

"The Wraith" contains violence and profanity.

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