Speedway Junky Review

For a supposedly bunch of cultured, educated, intelligent, and especially creative folks, gay people seem to make the same movie over and over and over. "Speedway Junky" is old news. Writer/Director Nickolas Perry mixes up "Midnight Cowboy," "Where the Day Takes You," "johns," and an ABC Afterschool Special and comes up with a concoction so bland that you'll find yourself pushing it around on your plate, wondering what to do with it.

The story focuses on a naive county boy runaway (Jesse Bradford) who comes to Las Vegas to strike it rich so that he can become a race car driver. Of course, he is practically robbed, raped and beaten by the time the first reel is over. The film's most nauseating segment concerns a businessman who picks up the young boy for obvious reasons. Of course, Jesse is blind to the whole scenario until it gets real obvious. It's revolting stereotypical crap.

But Jesse is fortunate enough to meet young Jordan Brower, a gay urban hustler who takes him under his wing. Jordan has his sights on Jesse but he's such a sweet young gay hustler that he wouldn't dream of forcing himself on the other boy. They become fast friends when Jesse gets the shit kicked out of him and Jordan nurses him back to health, like the good homosexual teenage boy that he is. Of course, Jesse is straight, so Jordan is wasting his time here. Wow - how novel!

Along the way there is much more trash. Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays the king of the strip, a teen hustler who does it all if the price is right. Of course, the biggest draw here is to see the wholesome milk-drinking TV star say "fuck"and talk about taking it up the ass. Whoopie. Thomas does the best he can, but he is relegated to the backdrop of the Jesse/Jordan love story - or rather, the lack thereof of it. Thomas also has to compete against some of the worst acting in the world, brought forth by Daryl Hannah, Tiffany Amber- Thiesen and some unknowns who were unfortunate enough to be cast here. It's a shambles.

If there is any savior of the piece, it is Brower who does his absolute best here to bring his gay teen character to life. He's might be quite good with the right director and costars. The scenes between him and Hannah almost work. A particularly good scene comes when Brower cries in unrequited love while his friend Jesse makes it with Hannah. The scenes are quick cut back and forth but the heterosexual scene doesn't go far enough. We know why Brower is in anguish, he is thinking of Jesse with the older woman. The scene with Jesse and Hannah, however, is so dull, so lackluster, so bland that it doesn't really work. Brower would be thinking of his love interest in bed with the woman, not just him kissing her tenderly. It just doesn't go far enough. It doesn't have enough oomph. It's too damn Hollywood "safe." Too bad Brower works so hard for almost no payoff. That's his problem in the whole movie. He's the only one on screen with any fucking chops.

Perry somehow talked Gus Van Sant into producing this piece of drivel. Hope Gus did it as a tax write-off. Why would he produce a watered-down drab rip-off of his own "My Own Private Idaho?" "Speedway Junky" is pure soap opera. There is no spark here, no joy, no fun and nothing new. Same shit, different film. Perry doesn't even seem to be trying. There is no glimmering in his direction. There is not one interesting shot (does the camera even move?) and definitely no unifying theme or motif or visual sense. Even Las Vegas as a backdrop looks bland. In many ways, it would be more fun to sit in the 4 Queens casino on the strip and drop quarters in the slot machines than to sit through this sorry waste of film. But occasionally you hit a small payoff, and Brower pops up with another good bit of acting in an otherwise barren wasteland of lost, pointless neon.

Notes: Also with Warren G., Erik Alexander Gavica (who is particularly bad), Patrick Renna Music by Stan Ridgeway. Produced by Golan/Globus Bradford's credits include "Romeo + Juliet" and "Hackers." Brower's include TV's "Teen Angel" and "The Big Green" (also with Renna).

Budget was $1 million. Shot in 24 days in the summer of 1998. Exterior filmming in Vegas, interiors shot in L.A.

Personal Notes: Seen on 8/28/99 as part of the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival. The director, an extremely nice man, was in attendance and did a Q&A session. Among other tales was the story of hiring JTT. Balthazar Getty had been hired to play the role of Steven but showed up incapacitated and unable to stand, let alone act. Perry was given 48 hours to find a new teenage "name actor" or the film would be scraped. JTT was on hiatus during the summer from "Home Improvement" and accepted the role after being faxed pages of the script.

Perry did not write the cross cut scene where Bradford and Hannah make love and Brower cries. He had those as separate entities. The editor did this and showed it to Perry who wisely saw it's genius.

Perry said that he thought of Brower's character as a sort of saint but did not consciously act visually on this idea. He said many people see religious imagery in the film. I myself saw a scene where a hubcap in the background was lit so that it became a halo over a scene. Perry said this was not a conscious thing.

Perry said he had written many scripts about L.A. fringe youth but none had sold. He made a short film called "Must Be the Music" (shown at agliff in '96) which Van Sant saw and liked. The director agreed to work with Perry about the time he was coming off the phenomenal "Good Will Hunting" which helped spark interest in his script for "Speedway Junky" and got the ball rolling.

Perry said the only thing his producers required in the film was a "car chase" scene to which he obliged.

Perry said his next project was that he was hired to write a script about a rock star who fakes his own death after his biggest hit so he can find the girl of his dreams. Uck!

At this time, the film is still seeking a distributor.

Also in the attendance of the screening was Jim Fall, who directed the film "Trick."

I saw a couple of people I have meet at agliff events tonight, including a guy named John who stopped me in the parking lot after the film. We discussed it for about 45 minutes. He was very nice.
Report Card
Script: F
Acting: D+
Cinematography\Lighting: D-
Special Effects\Make Up: F
Music: D-
Final Grade: D-

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