In 'Chasers,' Hopper leads us down familiar roads

April 30, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Staff Writer

"Chasers" is a road picture with a few genuinely funny comic scenes and a number of good performances. It's the first theatrically released feature film Dennis Hopper -- of "Easy Rider" (and frenetic Nike TV commercials) fame -- has directed since 1988's "Colors."

"Chasers" is essentially a remake of Hal Ashby's grim "The Last Detail" (1973), which starred Jack Nicholson and Otis Young as two career sailors randomly selected to escort a none-too-bright and essentially innocent man (Randy Quaid) to a military prison, where he will spend eight years and what remains of his youth. The two sailors would have loved to let him escape, but Robert Towne's script was too honest and too good to let that happen.

"Chasers" -- which credits five people for its story and screenplay -- is neither honest nor good. It's an escapist, romantic comedy in which one of the two sailor escorts, Rock (Tom Berenger), is a hardened Navy veteran with a heart of gold, and the other, Eddie (William McNamara), is a charming Tom Cruise-like hustler with the capacity for redemption. The agent of that redemption is the nTC prisoner -- this time a woman -- the stunning Erika Eleniak. She tries a number of ways -- some rather funny -- to save herself, only to end up saving her two captors.

It's a hokey movie, but it rarely takes itself too seriously and it has several fine actors in smaller parts -- among them Crispin Glover, Gary Busey (in yet another of his mad dog roles), Seymour Cassel (as a daffy chief petty officer), Dean Stockwell (as a weirded-out Porsche salesman) and Hopper himself as a hilariously perverted underwear salesman.

The film was made in South Carolina's low country, and Hopper and his cinematographer, Ueli Steiger, show a keen eye for the homely charm of small, one-gasoline-station towns such as Yemassee, for the vertiginous heights of the Charleston bridge, and the honky-tonk absurdities of miniature golf in Myrtle Beach. Hopper has a genuine feel for the American ethos. And one suspects that, aside from "Easy Rider," he may yet have another first-rate film inside him about what it means to be an American.

MOVIE REVIEW

'Chasers'

Starring Tom Berenger, William McNamara, Erika Eleniak

Directed by Dennis Hopper

Released by Morgan Creek/Warner Bros.

Rated R

**

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