Directed by: Antonio Negret
Written by: Michael Gilvary
Starring: Jim Caviezel, James Frain, Elizabeth Rohm, Diora Baird & Henry Perrineau
This fast and furious action thriller is sweaty, gritty and tension filled as a group of crooks chase after a family who have their money, in an awesome souped up black Chevrolet Chevelle. The plot may be streamlined (crooks hide their stolen cash in the car of a travelling family so they can get through a roadblock and then go gunning after the family to get the cash back) but the actions of the family and the criminals are never predictable. Sure this is Southern action pulp (proceedings taking place on the sweltering roads and bayous of Louisiana) yet the filmmakers have taken the time to give care to the characters and succeed in doing what a lot of action filmmakers seem in able of doing these days: make their film exciting, tense and action packed.
Produced by Joel Silver, Transit has a slick and professional sheen perfectly capturing the hot and sweaty nature of the Southern atmosphere as the tension between the crooks and family heats up. While James Frain’s bad guy is suitably nasty and driven to get his money back, it’s his ever-changing relationship with his gang that brings a lot of the tension. While he is a ruthless mastermind, he is at the mercy of one of his group who holds the key to them executing a clean getaway. This makes the bad guy somewhat vulnerable, meaning he is not as in control of the situation as he thinks he is. Likewise, the filmmakers have made the family just dysfunctional enough to add tension to their plight. Jim Caviezel’s dad is not quite the family man we first think and does the wrong thing on a number of occasions, which threatens to tear his family apart. His family never really trusts him but have to rely on him, which adds extra tension to the full throttle plot.
The cast are uniformly good here, even the youngsters who play Caviezel’s boys. The crooks are a little more three dimensional for this type of flick and, while I’m sure it’s always more fun playing the bad guys, they don’t dominate proceedings. The family are well rounded and both Caviezel and his onscreen wife (Elizabeth Rohm) convince as desperate parents trying to get their family out of a horrible situation. Director Antonio Negret (Seconds Apart) never lets his foot off the gas, creating a high-tension chase film. Momentum is sustained throughout with some impressive set pieces all mounting the tension and vehicular destruction (that cop car flip is a doozy!). And that Chevrolet Chevelle is a thing of beauty (much like the lovely Diora Baird) as it tears through the swampland causing mayhem.
On the negative side the film is a little over edited on occasion (though for the most part the action is cut well and easy to follow) and there is some shoddy back projection: I know it’s cheaper to green screen scenes within a car but it looks so much better when you film the actors in real moving cars. However, this is quality action filmmaking, a tense ride and while it has its roots in exploitation, a meaty thriller thanks to some fine acting and character development.