Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moving Violation (1976)

           The ’70s were filled with interchangeable action pictures about young rebels zooming across the countryside in hot cars while redneck cops chase after them, and only a few examples of the genre really stick in the memory—for instance, Vanishing Point (1971) is full of turbo-charged counterculture metaphors, and Grand Theft Auto (1977) is notable as Ron Howard’s directorial debut. Yet Moving Violation is probably as good an example of the genre as any other movie, simply because it lacks any distinguishing characteristics whatsoever: It is, quite literally, generic. Kay Lenz and Stephen McHattie costar as standard-issue mixed-up kids who fall into an adventure when they witness a corrupt sheriff committing a murder and then flee, so most of the picture comprises scenes of the duo driving fast while the sheriff and his cronies try to kill them. This results in lots of slo-mo crashes through things like haystacks and outhouses. Between chases, the kids stop to hang out with incidental characters and to have sex.
          Lenz, an interesting actor prone to delivering uninteresting performances when given substandard material, is sexy but lifeless, while McHattie unsuccessfully attempts a James Dean-type performance with all sorts of mumbling and sulking, coming across like a slovenly kid who wandered in front of the camera. Not coincidentally, McHattie played Dean in a TV movie around the time he made Moving Violation, so apparently he decided to get two movies out of the same performance. Because the leads are so drab, the movie is inert until old pro Eddie Albert shows up as the wiseass lawyer the kids hire to help unravel their situation; Albert’s charm and timing are easily the best things in the movie.
          Bearing all the penny-pinching hallmarks of product generated on the Roger Corman assembly line, Moving Violation is hampered by disjointed editing, so scenes don’t really start or end—they just blend together without any sense of the passage of time. The movie also bops chaotically from bleak scenes of youthful desperation to yee-haw road action accompanied by banjo music, so by the time the flick segues from its dark climax to the zippy Phil Everly-sung end-credits song “Detroit Man,” Moving Violation has committed nearly every movie violation imaginable.

Moving Violation: LAME

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