Freeway is a highly enjoyable deconstruction (for which read trashing) of Little Red Riding Hood. Bright positively revels in giving the original story an entirely less-than-innocent overhauling. In Brights take, Little Red Riding Hood becomes a troubled underage teenager fleeing from foster care who totes a handgun in her picnic hamper for her own protection; the wolf becomes a respectable child psychologist by day and the rest of the time a serial killer who stalks the freeways looking for young girls in trouble; while grandma lives in a North California trailer park surrounded by pink lawn flamingos. Theres no woodsman come to save Little Red Riding Hood, at most two pursuing detectives who turn up at the end to arrest her. Little Red Riding Hood imagery is consciously wound into the film when Reese Witherspoon sets out she packs everything into a red wicker basket; Kiefer Sutherlands psychologist is named Wolverton (wolf) and after she shoots him his injury contrives to make him seem even more lasciviously lupine.
It is all proves highly entertaining indeed, for a time Freeway was in danger of becoming a cult film, although its importance has faded in the decade since. Matthew Brights ace in the hole is an aggressively loud and assertive performance from Reese Witherspoon who manages successfully to transcend the teen nice girl casting that Witherspoon was pegged in following her subsequent A-list stardom. Brights pace is undeniably uneven at times the subplot concerning Reese Witherspoon locked up in jail sidetracks from the main plot for far too long. Also, the initial scenes where Kiefer Sutherland picks her up in his car are surprisingly lacking in threat with Sutherland coming across far too blandly. These scenes should have placed Reese Witherspoon in far more peril than they do as it is, the scenes with her being falsely incarcerated and not believed by the detectives contain far more emotional impact.
Interestingly, Freeway comes Executive Produced by no less than Oliver Stone who himself had just made that great white trash road movie Natural Born Killers (1994). Certainly, Freeway is a good deal more enjoyable than Stones subsequent venture into similar territory with U Turn (1997).
Matthew Bright followed Freeway up with Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999), which is a far more polished and disturbing film. There Bright deconstructs a different fairytale, choosing to conduct a troubled teenage girl runaway version of the Hansel and Gretel story. One fervently wishes someone out there would give the man some money to make more films.
(Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon) at this sites Best of 1996 Awards).