An excoriation of Reagan-era nostalgia for the Fifties, in the manner of Christine and Blue Velvet. The central image has Willem Dafoe swathed in leather from head to toe, posed atop his motorcycle against roadside verdure and bathed in bluish light. As it did for Kenneth Anger, The Wild One provides Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery with a key into a culture’s trance of polished metal and violent sensuality, l’amour et la mort. "This endless blacktop is my sweet eternity," the biker leader muses, a "weekend in the country" pits the daddy-os against the leery, envious small-town squares. Dafoe saunters into a café in a rhomboid composition scored to Brenda Lee, then into a bit of Hawksian courting around the jailbait tomboy’s (Marin Kanter) corvette: "What’s a bum gotta do to drive this thing?" "Turn the key." The gang slut steps out for a Coke while the fellas throw switchblades between each other’s legs, the tangled flesh of Dafoe and Kanter in the motel room is alternated with race-riot footage flickering on a TV screen. Finding the kinetic melancholia in this material is a job for Walter Hill (Streets of Fire), for angular, languid, deadpan satire you turn to Bigelow and Montgomery. A film-school thesis stretched to feature length, yet the hunger for pure form is unmistakable -- the South is a coiled abstraction of extra-crimson soda machines and garages, a phosphorescent green cloud surrounds a waitress as she strips down to her pointy bra. The pop-art lines could be out of Lichtenstein, their disproportionate intensity is humorously reflected in the scene in which a tiny matchstick is lit with a hail of target-practice bullets. With Robert Gordon, J. Don Ferguson, Tina L’Hotsky, and Lawrence Matarese.
--- Fernando F. Croce