Vanishing Point (1971)

Vanishing Point (1971), directed by Richard C. Sarafian.

Kowalski delivers cars, this time a white Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco. He doesn't pull over when a motorcycle cop directs him to. Keep that up and the movie can end in only one way. Which is different than the beginning, even though the beginning and end are the same scene.

What's his problem? He's been The Man and maybe he responds poorly to authority. He lives on cigarettes and amphetamine so maybe his judgment is impaired. He says SF is home. I think he's just had enough.

The first half is just tremendous "they don't make them like that anymore". It's pretty enough to be an art film, has enough action for gear-heads, and qualifies as an existential epic. I have seldom seen the vastness of the American West used to such advantage. The camera brings us not only the speed of the chase, but the inertial swoop of the curves.

The second half slacks off and drifts into a series of encounters with improbably colorful characters:

Kowalski also becomes less mysterious as we learn his suspiciously impressive resume: wounded Vietnam vet, Medal of Honor recipient, ex-uniformed patrolman, ex-police detective, former motorcycle and car racer.

A good subplot is the almost telepathic bond with a blind DJ who cheers him on, sort of a "Run, OJ, run!" episode. He is injured in a police riot later. I'm not clear how he got back on the air or who was impersonating him in the interim.

Some nudity. Made by Fox for $1.3 million. According to the wikipedia article they had five white Challengers; I thought the director said nine with only one remaining at the end, but maybe he was including other cars.

Available on Blu-ray with both the US and UK cuts; the only difference is a 5 minute scene with Charlotte Rampling in the latter. The director provides a calm, reflective commentary track.