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Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Two-Lane Blacktop

Director:Monte Hellman
Cast:James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates
Genre:Film, Cult

By Lee Gardner | Posted

If you want a most unusual peek inside the male psyche, rev up this low-idling B-movie art film-cum-existential gearhead epic, directed by Roger Corman vet Monte Hellman. A drag racer and his mechanic (singer/songwriter James Taylor and the late Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, both in their first and last dramatic film roles) travel the backroads in a souped-up, stripped-down '55 Chevy, fleecing local hot rodders to keep themselves in diner food and petroleum products and rarely exchanging a nonautomotive word or outward emotion. Before long, they're racing a macho blowhard/compulsive liar (the great character actor Warren Oates) with a yellow GTO and a host of seething insecurities across the country; the winner taking both cars' pink slips. There's a waifish free-spirit hitchhiker (Laurie Bird) whose presence generates what passes for dramatic tension, but in the end she hardly matters. In fact, the big race doesn't really matter. But hypnotic and subtly astute takes it from boring and pointless at the finish line.

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