As the year comes rapidly to a close, I’ve been reliving some of the action movies that came out this year in preparation for an awesome list of the best fights of 2008. Now, with action films, we often get a side-dish of wonderful called “the car chase.” After boobies, guns, and explosions, just about the coolest thing on screen are two cars whipping in and out of traffic, flipping over, and exploding. Heck, add in some boobies and guns and you’ve probably created the single greatest action sequence ever. Just one problem – car chases are complete bullshit on film.
One thing that has been bothering me lately about car chases in films is the notion that all cars are evenly matched. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a station wagon, a bread van, or an ice cream truck – you’ll be fast enough to keep pace with a Corvette, Mustang, or Charger. Forget gross vehicular weight or horsepower, all cars, trucks, and vans are capable of traveling at about 180 mph. Wanted, for example, features a dog food delivery truck matching pace with a Corvette in an extended chase sequence. Later, a stretch limousine and a Mustang duke it out in a race. Take another look at Quantum of Solace and you’ll find a very expensive sports car with a very aggressive engine seemingly incapable of leaving a luxury sedan or Range Rover in its dust, despite an advantage in both engine power and horse-power to weight ratios.
Why not just pair up equal cars, Hollywood? If you want a car chase involving a Corvette, your other car should be a Cobra. Want to see a Big Rig in a car chase? The other vehicle should be a big ass truck, or at least have the Big Rig as incapable of ever getting distance on the chase vehicle. If you want someone fleeing in a Prius, have the pursuer on a bicycle – they’re about the same in terms of power.
And why are the slowest cars and worst drivers always the police? Has a cop ever managed to stop a car chase? Mostly they just crash into those giant drums full of water or flip into a ditch, at which point their siren sputters out and makes that “Beeeeooooooo” sound before turning off. Then the cop punches the dashboard. Where do villains and maverick detectives get their car loans from, anyways? They all can afford sported out Mustangs and Chargers and classic muscle cars in perfect condition. Forget the bail out, we just need more car chases so that bad guys and good guys alike can wreck their Vipers and then buy new ones. For once I’d like to see, I don’t know, a Ford Focus chasing a Mini-Van or something. A car chase maxing out at 105mph. Or how about a minivan chasing a Charger that ends with the sports car driver just flipping the guy off and speeding away at twice what the van can do?
So maybe I’m the only one who cares. Everyone loves a good car chase, myself included, but let me get a chance of pace! The whole point of having different cars is to have different handling abilities. Quit making every car perform like they were all NASCAR tuned machines. Give the car chases some character. We’ve seen enough of cars just going fast, now bring some originality into the equation! I for one am tired of seeing Volkswagen buses keep pace with Ferraris and Challengers fail to outrun sedans. With my foot firmly on the gas, I’m redlining right past my boiling point.
What are your thoughts on car chases in film? Any particular grievances with how they’re handled?