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Movie Review: Switchback -- The race is on for The YearUs Worst Movie

By Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Staff Reporter

In the first scene of Switchback, a woman is walking around a large, dark, ominous house, with shadows all around; the music score is full of suspense and foreboding. Then something attacks her! No, wait, it's just her cat. Half of the audience jumps in their seats; the other half groans. Next, the real killer attacks her. Half of the audience jumps higher; the other half groans louder. Soon, the groaning half is staring at the jumping half: what, have these people never seen a standard-issue suspense thriller?

And Switchback is strictly standard-issue, groaningly, jaw-droppingly so. It's no small achievement to surpass the recent turkeys in the desire to get the coveted "worst movie of the year" trophy, but this one is a good candidate for such dubious honors. The plot (as far as you can gleam one) concerns, roughly in the order of the appearance: diabolical killers, kidnappings, blood 'n' gore, local politics, crusty old sheriffs, suspicious hitchhikers, homicidal rednecks, fistfights, more blood 'n' gore, flaky policemen, tough FBI agents, shootouts, guns The list goes on and on, but at no point does it get interesting.

At least, that's what I remembered just two hours after seeing the movie; the fine points, subtleties, and subtext of the plot must have eluded me.

The screenplay feels like it was put together in one sitting, with little effort given to remove at least some of the larger plot holes and have the story make at least some sense. When the movie backs itself into a corner, without any idea how to proceed further, or how to explain the numerous implausibilities which already occurred, it cheerfully invents some new implausibilities to solve the problems created by the old ones. This creates an avalanche, and the result is a total mess. Which is a disappointment given that the story was written (and directed) by Jeb Stuart, who also co-wrote both Die Hard and The Fugitive.

Since Switchback is a thriller, and its happy conclusion can be predicted around two minutes into the movie, it tries very hard to create at least something resembling suspense. It tries to make just about everyone on screen appear suspicious and harboring some dark secret; most of these are just red herrings, and the actors' attempts to establish the characters are doomed to fail. The music score and cinematography are utterly forgettable; the editing mostly involves cutting away just before something interesting happens. At least the locations (the movie takes place and was shot in Montana and Colorado) look nice.

All in all, a rare groaner. Save your money, time, and brain cells.

Written and directed by Jeb Stuart

Starring R. Lee Ermey, William Fichtner, Danny Glover, Jared Leto, Ted Levine, Robert Peters, Dennis Quaid.