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The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting
cast: C. Thomas Howell, Jake Busey, Kari Wuhrer, Mackenzie Gray, and Doug MacLeod

director: Louis Morneau

89 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
Haunted by a violent past, and unable to settle into his new life as a police officer in Iowa, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell, now looking his age a bit) finds himself framed for the murder of sympathetic Texan cop Captain Esteridge (from the first movie) and on the run from both the vengeful local lawmen, and a psychopathic killer (raggedy blond Jake Busey). However, this time around, Jim takes his nice girlfriend Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) along for the road trip straight to hell and back.
   Busey's wacko seems to be a reincarnation of the spree killer played by Rutger Hauer in the original and, as before, the causalities keep rising each time there's any chance of the madman's rampage coming to an end, with the innocent guy on the scene looking more guilty than ever just as the cops arrive. Like The Hitcher (1986), this eagerly paced sequel throws western imagery and spectacular road rage together with a nearly fanatical genre-twisting enthusiasm rarely seen since the heyday of Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 (aka: The Road Warrior, 1981). What's a bit unusual, though, is that after a disappointing first half an hour, the action scenes and the ever-increasing bodycount are centred on heroine Maggie, and the main plot takes on an offbeat feminist emphasis...
   Don't get too excited though. Whereas the stylish visuals and relentless pace of Robert Harmon's original psycho-thriller had an admirable tendency to defy logic with its ghoulish worst-case scenario, The Hitcher II is merely illogical at times. Louis Morneau's offering simply does not have the same nightmarish quality that made Harmon's darker, and confrontational, drama a cult success. The Hitcher II is entirely free of the homoerotic undertones (between the polite young hero and the sadistic villain), too. What might have made up for this unfortunate lack of a subtext is if the possibility of a similarly risqué relationship developing between the killer and courageous Maggie had been acknowledged and explored in detail. But the filmmakers are clearly worried about this particular aspect, preferring to re-orchestrate or simply repeat highlights from the far superior Hitcher, avoiding every opportunity to make this sequel a less predictable and more extreme movie than it is.
   What The Hitcher II does have going for it is the statuesque presence of Kari Wuhrer. The flesh and blood star of CG-spiders flick Eight Legged Freaks, she's an actress who appears purpose-built for US action movies. Maggie is an aircraft mechanic and the pilot of crop-dusting planes, who manages to escape from even the most potentially lethal situation, and drive a stolen 18-wheel truck in pursuit of the bad guy. Of course, we want Maggie to win the deadly battle of wits against this wandering loony who's claimed the frequently inhospitable desert landscape as his private hunting ground, and she does so with a grimace and dash of true grit (no surprise there, really, folks). Yet it's a shame this isn't a far better thriller than all the other women-fighting-back movies that have appeared recently. This could have mixed together the intriguing themes of franchised sequels Halloween H20 and Hannibal, but The Hitcher II is stuck in the middle of a road to nowhere and, despite the lurking promise of its anonymous subtitle, this isn't the film that I've been waiting for.
   The DVD has Dolby digital 5.1 sound plus English subtitles but, shamefully, no disc extras whatsoever.

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