We’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Jack Reacher, a film adaptation of Lee Child’s 2005 novel, One Shot, following the various trailers and publicity stills showing glimpses of a promising car chase starring a Chevrolet Chevelle. Having now seen it myself, I can vouch that the chase sequence in Jack Reacher lived up to my lofty expectations and was undoubtedly the standout scene of the film. It’s a gritty, visceral piece of filmmaking that harkens back to the car chase glory days of the 1970’s, where flashy CGI, overblown stunts and shameful shaky-cam were non-existent.
Even the initial setup has echoes of Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds. Suspected for murder, Reacher, who is already on the tail of who he believes to be the culprit, pulls up to the scene of a crime surrounded by police officers. There’s a tense moment as Reacher and the lead pursuer knowingly stare at each other while the sound of the Chevelle’s ticking engine pre-empts the action about to unfold.
Jack Reacher’s chase firmly focuses on that most vital ingredient of a captivating car chase: the driving. Unlike most films where the director will do their utmost to disguise the stunt driver who's obviously wearing a wig to resemble the main actor, the film goes out of its way to constantly remind you that it is indeed Mr. Cruise performing his own stunts behind the wheel.
Those who saw his appearance on Top Gear will already know that Tom Cruise is blessed with some considerable driving skills, but, to me, hurling a lumbering old Chevrolet Chevelle around 90 degree corners is a more impressive feat than driving a Kia C’eed around the Top Gear test track with the aid of power steering. Indeed, the Chevelle certainly gets an exhaustive workout, speeding down highways, sliding round corners and torturing the tyres with copious amounts of burnouts.
And yet Reacher isn’t portrayed as a perfect driver. He makes mistakes, just as you and I probably would in the midst of a tense police chase, bumping into walls, clipping oncoming cars and misjudging corners, pushing the car to its limits. In one scene, Reacher slams into a row of barrels after barrelling round a corner too fast, before stalling in his haste to chase after his elusive target. According to Cruise, stalling the car was completely unintentional, but I’m glad they kept it in the final cut – it all adds to the immersion and plausibility of the scene.
The Chevelle sustains a hefty amount of damage throughout the chase, becoming a battered wreck fit for the scrapyard by the end of the
scene, but the destruction never feels gratuitous. A high speed and brutal tussle between the Chevelle and Jack Reacher’s target in an Audi across a bridge causes the most damage, but a few police cars also find themselves on the receiving end of the Chevelle’s front end for good measure. There are no exceptionally flamboyant stunts to speak of, but this would detract from the gritty realism the director intended to achieve.
Watching the chase in a packed cinema was an absolute aural assault. Like the very best car chases that repeatedly crop up in top ten lists, Jack Reacher’s chase is completely devoid of incidental music, allowing the almighty sound of the Chevelle’s guttural engine to dominate the scene, along with the wailing of sirens, crashes and screeching tyres. The sounds are used to full effect, creating one of the most visceral chase scenes in recent memory.
There’s an element of suspense, too. At one point, Reacherends up in a cat and mouse sequence, creeping through alleyways after losing sight of the Audi which, unbeknown to Reacher, is hiding in the shadows ready to pounce.
Considering this is the first film Christopher McQuarrie has directed since 2000’s Way of the Gun, the director has little prior experience of directing a car chase, and yet the directing of Jack Reacher’s car chase is superbly slick. The cinematography is completely devoid of shaky cam and rapid-fire editing to create spurious tension as seen in many contemporary chases, instead opting for lingering shots that focus on Cruise’s driving prowess.
This is best exemplified where, in an inspired piece of driving, Cruise performs a swift u-turn, mounting the Chevelle over a center divider, before darting back around to exit the highway in a glorious tyre-shredding tailslide. The entire manoeuvre is seen in one clean shot, whereas many movies would most likely cram in three or four.
To some, the ending, which you will already have seen in the trailer anyway, may come across as something of an anti-climax. We have a perception that all car chases must end with a spectacular stunt, such as the death of character or a devastating car crash full of carnage and explosions. And yet Jack Reacher’s chase couldn’t end on a more casual note.
After all that drama, he simply pulls up, blends in with a nearby crowd and whisks away on a bus with the help of a passer-by’s camouflaging cap. It’s a fitting end, however, that befits Jack Reacher’s mysterious character. In fact it’s not too dissimilar to the conclusion of Drive’s introductory chase which ended in a very similar fashion – it’s no coincidence, since both characters share similarly shadowy personalities.
Much like last year’s Drive and 2010’s The Town, Jack Reacher proves that relying on realism over flamboyance can create a truly thrilling, suspenseful, and gratifying car chase that fully immerses you. A sure contender for the best chase of 2012, then – find out if Jack Reacher came out on top in our annual VaRaces awards coming soon.
2012 may have had a slow start in terms of high-octane Hollywood car chase content, but it soon picked up as the year panned out, with notable releases including Safe House, Taken 2 and Jack Reacher. 2013, on the other hand, looks like it will start with one hell of a bang, with a multitude of films released in the first half of the year that promise significant car chase action. Here’s hoping it’s a sign of what’s to come in the summer and beyond.
As is tradition on VaRaces, we thought we’d gather every film due out this year we could find to give you an idea of lies on the road ahead for chase fans in 2013.
Loosely based on a true story, Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer tells the tale of an elite squad of cops who form an allegiance to take out Mickey Cohen, a ruthless mob leader who has taken over the city of Los Angeles circa 1949.
With Drive’s Ryan Gosling playing a central role, it’s logical to assume there’s a high chance that a car chase will erupt in this gangster action thriller. And you’d be right, as one of Gangster Squad’s pivotal action scenes happens to be a multi-car pursuit in which a plethora of vintage cars, including several 1949 Cadillacs, crash, flip and explode as the protagonists attempt to intercept a drugs convoy.
Much like the late H.B. Halicki, many of the rarities seen in the film were sourced by Ruben’s personal collection, private car collectors and junkyards in order to make the 1940’s Los Angeles look as authentic as possible. And yes, don’t worry – all the cars you see getting dismembered were written-off junk cars specially modified for one last send-off in the film.
Release date – January 10th 2013
Mark Wahlberg plays an ex-cop seeking revenge after being double crossed by the city’s corrupt mayor played by Russell Crowe.
The film features a short yet pleasingly destructive chase – you can watch an excerpt from the scene in an official video below where we get to see an Impala get impaled by a Charger down some night time rain-soaked streets. Despite the numerous crashes, Broken City continues the Hollywood tradition where airbags don’t seem to have ever been invented.
Release Date – January 18th 2013
Death Race: Inferno
This direct-to-DVD third chapter in the Death Race saga sees Luke Goss reprise his role of notorious racing driver Frankenstein who once again finds himself driving for his life in a series of prison yard races with a deadly twist. Expect explosions, bad acting, explosions, cars with guns and explosions.
Indeed, while Death Race: Inferno offers more of the same racing action and OTT fatalities we’ve come to expect from the not-so-subtle series inspired by the cult-classic Death Race 2000, it at least manages to shake things up by moving the action over to the desert landscapes of South Africa in contrast to the dingy prison arenas seen in the last two instalments.
Our advice: put your brain in the backseat, don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the ride.
Release date: January 22nd 2013
The Last Stand
Arnie’s iconic “I’ll be back” catchphrase resonates very true here. After a supporting role in last year’s sequel to The Expendables, the ex-Governator has redonned his action hero sunglasses to star in The Last Stand, his first leading role in 10 years since Terminator 3.
Arnie plays Ray Owens, a hardened town sheriff who represents ‘the last stand’ between a runaway felon and his freedom in the Mexican border. Of course, being an Arnie film we can expect a barrage of bullets, one-liners and, you guessed it, car chases.
The real star of the show is a souped-up Corvette ZR1, which takes quite a battering in the film – only two out of seven of the Corvettes provided by Chevrolet were returned in decent shape according to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who also worked on the Transformers films.
We know there’s at least one car chase between the Corvette and Arnie in a Camaro through a cornfield, but car action seems to be prominent throughout the film as the trailer shows a truck ploughing through a police roadblock and an SUV flipping onto its roof – a stunt that was apparently responsible for wrecking one of the Corvettes.
Release date – January 24th
A Good Day to Die Hard
Bruce Willis reprises his role as cocky cop John McCLane in the fifth entry to the seminal action series Die Hard, this time venturing outside the US to inflict some considerable damage to the city of Moscow.
In what promises to be a sure contender for the Most Destructive Chase in VaRaces’ annual awards, A Good Day to Die Hard will feature a highly destructive truck chase that could well rival last year’s rampage through Rio de Janeiro in Fast Five.
Apparently, the mammoth scene took 78 days days to film and there are rumours that the Top Gear team helped out with the chase just like they did in The Sweeney last year. We should therefore be in for something special indeed.
Release date – February 14th 2013
From the director of Horrible Bosses comes Identity Thief, a comedy film starring Jason Bateman who becomes the victim of identity theft by a seemingly harmless woman.
While Horrible Bosses’ chase was nothing to write home about, Identity Thief looks as if it will have more ambitious stuntwork, as a van can be seen rolling over and a pristine Ford Taurus gets broadsided by a passing semi-truck in a freeway chase.
Release date – February 8th 2013
In addition to Fast and Furious 6, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson stars in the far-fetched flick Snitch, playing the role of a father whose son is about to go down for selling illegal drugs. Johnson’s character subsequently hatches a deal with a U.S. attorney, acting as an informant in order to infiltrate a drug cartel.
The trailer shows numerous glimpses of a high-octane freeway chase as Johnson evades pursuing bad guys in a semi- truck, with some well-executed stuntwork. There’s a smattering of gun-fire, cars flip and explode and the stunt in which the trailer detaches from the moving truck looks particularly thrilling.
Snitch’s director Ric Roman Waugh also has some car chase credentials too, having worked as worked as a stuntman and co-ordinator for over 17 years with notable films including Tango & Cash, Total Recall (1990), Hook and The Crow.
Release date – February 22nd 2013
Fast and Furious star Paul Walker gets back behind the wheel in independent thriller Vehicle 19 that has all the hallmarks of a typical Paul Walker film.
Walker playing the role of an ex-cop? Check. Lots of car action? Check. Sold.
Indeed, the majority of Vehicle 19’s screentime seems to take place behind the wheel of a minivan, after Walker’s character takes it for a drive believing it to be a rental car, only to become embroiled in a conspiracy involving corrupt cops in South Africa after discovering a suspicious woman being held captive in the back.
It’s currently unclear whether or not Vehicle 19 will get a theatrical release outside of Japan which is scheduled in February, implying that other territories may get a straight-to-DVD release.
Release date – February 23rd 2013
An unlikely entry in a list of films containing automotive action, this film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s (the person responsible for corrupting millions of teens with the Twilight series), book of the same name about an alien species taking over human minds will contain a chase set on desert roads involving a truck, a group of exotics and a helicopter.
Release date – March 22nd 2013
Fast and Furious 6
The never-ending Fast and Furious franchise is set to race another money-making lap this May directed by Justin Lin, who has been at the helm of every film in the series to date since Tokyo Drift.
Fast and Furious 6 will reportedly be a direct sequel that sees the likes of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s bulging biceps reprise their roles, but other than that little is known about this latest sequel other than the fact it will continue the new action heist movie format established in Fast Five.
While it’s difficult to imagine how the inventible auto action scenes in Fast and Furious 6 will trounce Fast Five’s gloriously destructive finale, in which two Chargers preposterously towed a bank vault destroying half of Rio De Janeiro in the process, Justin Lin has yet to disappoint since he took over the series.
We certainly can’t wait to find out, but for now we know that scenes have been filmed in Glasgow and London, and some amateur behind the scenes footage confirms a police chase set in Glasgow, with one video capturing a rollover stunt.
Additional footage shot in Spain also confirms another action sequence involving some classic Mustangs, a Roadrunner and…a tank. You can always rely on the Fast and Furious series to deliver thrilling, destructive and innovative racing and chasing scenes which automatically makes Fast and Furious 6 one of our most anticipated auto action films of the year, but will it be able to secure the coveted VaRaces Chase of the Year award just as its predecessors consistently did?
Fortunately, we won’t have too long to wait for an official trailer as Vin Diesel recently confirmed it will air during the Super Bowl on February 3rd before the film’s final release in May.
Release date – May 24th 2013
Now You See Me
The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenburg plays one of four illusionists capable of pulling off bank heists during their magic performances and rewarding audiences with the loot. Other big star names include Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
From the brief glimpses seen in the trailer, it looks as if a car chase occurs on a freeway bridge, as an Impala is seen flipping over the divider and exploding.
Release date – June 7th 2013
The original Red, based on the limited comic series, was surprisingly lacklustre in terms of car action. Fortunately, its recently announced sequel, the aptly named Red 2, looks to up the ante, as the teaser trailer shows some action in London as a Lotus Exige sweeps under a truck Fast and Furious-style while a Range Rover flips spectacularly in front of a truck on a British motorway.
At long last, then, it seems that car chases set in Britain are becomingly increasingly common, with last year’s The Sweeney concluding with a chase filmed by the Top Gear crew in a caravan park and the upcoming Fast and Furious 6 featuring scenes set in Glasgow and London. Additional scenes featuring a Citroen 2CV and a Porsche barrelling through the streets of Paris can also be seen, but it’s unclear if these scenes are part of a car chase.
Release date – August 2nd 2013
Before you get excited, no this is not a remake of The Getaway with Steve McQueen. While there’s currently no trailer available, the film’s premise hints at the possibility of car chases being at the forefront, as Ethan Hawke plays an ex-racing driver following orders behind the wheel from a mysterious man in order to save his kidnapped wife with the assistance of a young girl. It may have direct-to-DVD written all over it, but Getaway is slated for a theatrical release this August.
Release date – August 30th 2013
While not strictly a car chase film as such, Rush still deserves a place in our list considering it’s a film revolving around motor racing.
Following the success of Senna, Formula One is about to return to the big screen in this American adaptation of the 1976 grand prix which follows the rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda that picks up after a near-fatal fiery crash at the Nürburgring. The film documents the driver’s contrasting personalities and Niki’s miraculous comeback from his accident after just 4 weeks. Both real and replica vintage cars were used to dramatise the action.
Rush is being directed by Ron Howard, who is no stranger to automotive action having directed the cult-classic Grand Theft Auto and starred in Eat My Dust and American Graffiti.
Release date – September 20th 2013
Found anything we’ve missed? Continue the discussion on our forum!
Rallybrudar (Rally Girls), just released this Autumn in Sweden, tells the story of two women who challenge the rally racing world by becoming racing drivers and endeavour to make the big time. Set in Sweden during the 1960s, Rallybrudar stars Eva Röse and Marie Robertson in the lead roles. The film’s director Lena Koppel talks about her latest film and its production.
The Annual VaRaces Awards returns again to celebrate the best car chase and racing achievements for 2010. As the new decade rolled in, car chase and racing fans witnessed a bumper crop of vehicular action on the screen. Unlike in other years where a particular car chase film stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field, 2010 yielded a number of quality car chases to make it the most closely contested awards in the past few years.
Once again it is necessary to thank those who have made these awards possible. Special thanks goes to the Special Guest Presenters for their nominations and contributions. In composing the Awards, there was little point trying to express something that had already been compellingly stated. And one cannot fail to mention Derrick Hopkins our VaRaces website founder. Special thanks goes out to him for his continued dedication to maintaining the website and for his unfailing enthusiasm for all things automotive.