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Car Chases

a random sampling

Because I just finished viewing Bullitt and sitting through the tedious ten-minute featurette on its making ("Steve McQueen's Commitment to Reality" – it sounds like it should be airing on Fox this summer.) I've decided to rate some movie car chases. It would be no fun if I rated my top ten, so I'm just going to pick a random sample.


Excellent. There's a reason Frankenheimer was known for this sort of thing. Almost all real stunts and for the most part real actors in real cars for the closeups (although stunt drivers were often driving off-camera). High-speed and high-action. This is what a car chase should be.
5 stars

The Matrix Reloaded

Wow. The brothers Wachowski completely reinvented the idea of the car chase with this one. It's impossible not to be on the edge of your seat. However, the ending is among the least satisfying visual effects shots in the film in terms of looking realistic and for approximately eleven of its 14 minutes, the cars are more of a backdrop for other things.
3 1/2 stars

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The Matrix Reloaded would have deserved a higher ranking if not for this one. Because of its brevity and awesomeness, I'm lumping the second mini-chase in with the main one here. The reason the T3 chase is so excellent is its brute destructive force. Arnold, dangling from a speeding crane, kicks over an ambulance and later smashes through an office building. Reloaded had a lot of near misses but T3 just has bang! (And I don't want to spoil the ending of the mini-chase, but talk about bang!)
4 1/2 stars

The French Connection

Everybody talks about this car chase, and I don't get it at all. I watched this film recently and was disappointed overall, but mostly with the chase. It doesn't feel dangerous and it's not particularly well edited. The fact that he's chasing an El train and not another car is interesting but it's not enough to support the rest of the lackluster chase. Many car chases have been better and not just because of digital technology either. They're just planned out better and the result is more captivating.
1 1/2 stars


Two things dominate the exhaustive special features of The French Connection. (I wouldn't have even seen the features, except I forgot to take the second disc out of my Netflix queue after despising the first disc.) One: effusive praise of William Friedkin, mostly by William Friedkin. Two: giddy accounts of "the best car chase ever." Everyone talks about how producer Phil D'Antoni had just finished Bullitt and it had the best car chase in history and he wanted The French Connection to top it. In my opinion, Bullitt is still twice as good, even though that isn't saying much. At least the editing and the choice of location makes it interesting. Sure, three shots of the cars turning the same corner from different angles are used at different points in the chase, but they're all good shots. It's imperfect but it's gripping. McQueen (doing his own stunt driving; this and "doctors playing doctors" in the hospital scene appear to constitute his "Commitment") is like a bat out of hell.
3 stars

The Italian Job (2003)

The Mini chase through the streets of Los Angeles is among the top reasons this is one of my favorite movies so far this summer. To begin with, it's a joy for me as someone frequently stuck in the same L.A. traffic. I had a great time recognizing all the intersections and saying "Yeah, that light is a bitch." It's tightly paced and energetically choreographed and the Minis couldn't look better. Sometimes, being the sleeper movie pays off!
4 stars

The Blues Brothers

People really love this chase scene because it's so silly and hyperbolic. Yeah, I guess. Maybe you had to be there. I appreciate the humor of it, but it kind of drags on for me. (I know, the dragging on is part of the humor, but Family Guy achieved this much more effectively in their Y2K episode "Da Boom".)
2 1/2 stars

The Rock

Hummer vs. Ferrari. Exploding trolley car. In many ways, this chase is too good for its own good. Director Michael Bay has built a reputation on over-the-top action, and this certainly fits the bill. I guess that's what makes it ultimately less satisfying. It's like a dream of a chase scene, you know it's unreal so it fails to mean as much to you.
3 stars

1 Comment (Add your comments)

Anonymous CowardSun, 7/3/05 4:19pm

in the rock thats a cable car dummy and a fake cable car at that theres a big difference a trolley has overhead wires, guess yuou are under forty! wjm

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