The original was not necessarily a bad movie to my hazy recollection but it certainly did not have the prestige or fan base as some of PD’s other endeavors. In fact, I don’t recall much outcry when this was announced comparatively to their other projects. The story is largely the same in both versions, re-emphasizing the production company’s reliance on remaking instead of reimagining. Here, young couple Jim and Grace are traveling through the southwest to meet up with some friends. On the way, they almost strike a man standing in the middle of the road. Being in the middle of nowhere, Jim wants to stop and give the man a ride but Grace objects and the two carry on.
Later at a gas station, Jim is approached by the man in the road who introduces himself as John Ryder. He has hitched a ride with a trucker but now needs a ride to a motel. Jim agrees but not long into their trek Ryder goes crazy and threatens Grace with a knife before he is kicked from the moving car. Ryder targets the pair and begins a path of death and mayhem which he successfully frames them for. The bulk of the movie is Jim and Grace trying to not only stay away from the suspecting police but also the crazed mad man on a somewhat clichéd, but still terrifying spree.
We’ve already established with Battle: Los Angeles that I do not necessarily need my movies to be groundbreaking to be enjoyable. In fact, just like that movie, I could see most of the relevant plot points coming a mile a way. I just need something to keep my short attention span engaged and shockingly, The Hitcher actually delivers. There are a fair amount of car chases and shoot-outs to be had and even if some of the ancillary characters are incredibly stupid (cops who just look while being shot at), everything is fairly straight-forward and shockingly restrained considering this film’s remade cinematic brethren.
Sean Bean plays Ryder pretty terrifically as equal parts bat-shit insane and just diabolical. He is never really given a true motive or reason for targeting the couple but that does not matter much when random cars are falling from the sky and people are dropping dead every few minutes. The story by Eric Bernt and Jake Wade Wall start the action very early and the direction by Dave Meyers gives the film a frenetic pace as Ryder ups the ante while upping the body count as well.
Sophia Bush and Zach Knighton as Grace and Jim respectively portray their characters absent the standard clichés you would expect in this type of movie. Relatively speaking, they are proactive and smart and even have a nice chemistry together. When the shit hits the fan (or the torque of a tractor trailer), Bush is fairly convincing as a badass as well. Neal McDonough as the lead lawman pursuing the kids/murderousmadman/whichever is pretty entertaining with a few choice lines and a solid performance.
I must say that given the output of the production company, I expected The Hitcher to be a half-realized, shameless ripoff of a previous film. To an extent, it was but that doesn’t stop the film from being a tense, yet amusing way to kill an hour and a half.