Two-Lane Blacktop

Year: 1971
Production Co: Michael Laughlin Entertainment
Director: Monte Hellman
Writer: Rudolph Wurlitzer/Will Corry
Cast: James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird

Another classic you'll wonder what the fuss is about unless you come to it with a lot of historical context. I gather it's one of the first (or coolest) movies to detail the car nut/street racing culture we're still seeing in movies like the Fast and the Furious franchise and that's what makes it so authoritative. Unfortunately, such kudos doesn't make it entertaining.

Musos James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (of the Beach Boys fame) are two long-haired car freaks at the tail end of the hippie era, archetypal Man With No Name drifters who hardly even speak to each other, let alone anyone else. In fact it was afterwards that I realised they seemed to be the prototype for Ryan Gosling's character in Drive (and the reason that movie bored me as much as this one did).

As they cross the US they make a living drag racing, either at organised meets or by goading opponents into competing for money. In this particular chapter of their lives they pick up a young girl who falls in with them in the most unbelievably casual of circumstances (she literally gets into the back of their car – getting no reaction from either of them – and stays there).

They also meet loudmouthed huckster GTO (Oates, whom I didn't place until about halfway through – he'd go on to play Sergeant Hulka in Stripes ), who tries to coax them into a race they finally agree to.

But the critical point about the story is that it deals with two characters who are already set when it starts and don't change throughout the movie, something any high school drama student can tell you is the antithesis of drama.

The final shot, of Driver (Taylor) racing down the road in a race you don't even see the result of, seems to be the mission statement of the movie –all these two guys know or care about is the road and an opponent. They don't really care about GTO, they certainly don't care about the girl, and they don't even seem to care that much about each other.

If you like a little bit of drama and plot in your movies, you'll be bored stiff.

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