Just when I thought I saw every great thriller from the nineties, I stumbled upon this one. Switchback is a highly underrated, refreshing, and quite unique serial killer movie. While the main story is pretty much standard-issue for this subgenre, everything else is a lot different from what we’re used to. We will be following Frank LaCrosse, an FBI agent on the trail of a vicious serial killer. Locked in a deadly battle, there’s only one way this fight is going to end. One or both of them will have to die. The movie follows several different subplots that eventually converge in one hell of a finale. It starts strong with a scene where our killer stalks a nanny babysitting a small kid.
It is truly frightening to see a professional serial killer at work. He knows what he wants to do, she knows it as well and so do we. And yet when it all happens you still can’t help but feel that nasty knot in your stomach. You remember that there are some truly evil people out there, roaming the streets and looking for their victims. This scene puts you in the right mood for what’s about to come. And what’s about to come is a gripping tale full of mystery and suspense. You won’t be quite sure who’s who until the final third of the movie. This makes Switchback quite different from all the other serial killer movies. It’s not quite a who-done-it but it’s damn near close.
After writing such classics as Die Hard and The Fugitive, Jeb Stuart decided to try his luck with directing. And he managed to make a pretty solid movie that sadly didn’t do well at the box office. Despite the big budget of almost $40 million, the movie made just under $7 million. And it quickly fell into oblivion. I also think that the huge success of Se7en had something to do with it. So, I think it’s about time to right this wrong and get more people to check out this movie.
Switchback is an excellent thriller featuring an engaging story and an all-star cast. And it will keep throwing curveballs at you right up until the end. All the characters we’re going to meet are well-developed, even the ones who appear in just a few scenes. This helps you to immerse yourself in the story. And when you add to this an all-star cast you get one hell of a movie. We’ve got not only Dennis Quaid but also Danny Glover and young Jared Leto in the lead roles. R. Lee Ermey gave another memorable performance as Sheriff Buck Olmstead. You might remember him as the tough drill instructor from the eighties classic Full Metal Jacket. And I’m sure you’re going to recognize most of the supporting cast.
Despite the big budget, big names, and a sprawling story, the movie itself feels quite humble. It doesn’t try to be anything else than what it actually is, a refreshing serial killer vs detective story. Granted, towards the end it does get a bit preposterous but by that time you already had a good time. The thing I liked the most about Switchback is that it kept things moving. Not only the pacing was brisk but our characters were also always on the move.
While the detectives were discovering the bloody trail our killer was leaving in his wake, he was already looking for the next town and the victim. I mean, half the movie consists of our mysterious duo driving that beautiful 1977 Cadillac Eldorado through snowy roads. And I just loved the bizarre interior of the car. All of this made it feel a bit disjointed but I think that the performances and the suspenseful atmosphere covered that up quite well.
It’s also interesting that the movie is actually quite light on the gore and graphic violence. Actually, I don’t think that there are more than two scenes featuring any kind of graphic content. However, make no mistake, Switchback has an R rating. It reminds me a bit of both Narrow Margin and One False Move. I don’t want to go into details because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Let’s just say that apart from cars, we will also be using other modes of transportation.
Finally, I just want to mention the fact that Switchback is the last Rysher’s movie. Although Rysher Entertainment is best known for its television content, they’ve also made a couple of big movie during the nineties. The biggest one was probably The Saint although I much prefer their smaller movies like Kingpin, Escape from L.A. and 2 Days in The Valley. Back in 1997 they released not one but two serial killer movies, this one and Kiss The Girls.
Director: Jeb Stuart
Writer: Jeb Stuart
Cast: Dennis Quaid, R. Lee Ermey, Danny Glover, Jared Leto, Ted Levine, William Fichtner
Fun Facts: At one point Steven Seagal was considered for the role of the FBI agent Frank LaCrosse that ultimately went to Dennis Quaid.