The Last Chase (1981)

Article 3952 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-9-2012
Directed by Martyn Burke
Featuring Lee Majors, Burgess Meredith, Chris Makepeace
Country: Canada / USA
What it is: Dystopian car chase movie

In the future, the world has run out of oil and a plague has destroyed a large portion of humanity. A former race car driver turned public transit spokesman turns rogue, rebuilds his race car, and, with the help of a young rebel, sets out on the road to escape from his oppressive society to a new community across the country in California. The authorities decide to enlist the aid of a former jet pilot to fly a fighter plane and destroy the car.

I thought the premise itself (a jet plane chasing a race car) was pretty silly until it became clear to me that the plane’s purpose was to destroy the car; at that point, I was able to accept the premise a bit more. However, the movie has other problems. The three villainous authority figures are more annoying than frightening, with George Touliatos in particular given to overacting on his big speeches. Furthermore, their characters seem utterly dim; if they couldn’t see that the pilot was an eccentric loose cannon who was more apt to sympathize with the race car driver than with the authorities (which I was able to tell immediately and which the race car driver figures out without even meeting him), then they show an appalling lack of character judgment. The character of the young rebel is very poorly thought out, and the movie has a bad habit of relying on dull and repetitive camera angles. Yet I think the movie’s biggest flaw is this; there’s something potentially incredibly visceral about the idea of a cross-country race; anyone whose seen VANISHING POINT knows what can be done with the idea. This movie never once taps into that sense, and the driving scenes are dull and mundane rather than exciting and thrilling. That problem alone is what really sinks this movie.

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