Thursday, August 2, 2012


“Seconds Apart” director Antonio Negret generates some genuine adrenaline-driven thrills, chills, and spills in his second feature length release. The rural crime thriller “Transit” (**1/2 OUT OF ****) qualifies as a tense road picture about four murderous thieves who tangle with an innocent family in backwater Louisiana over a fortune in stolen loot. The only shortcoming of this above-average but formulaic melodrama is its lackluster ending that deprives the protagonist of any reward for his heroic deeds. Fortunately, the cast is convincing, particularly Jim Caviezel as the devastated dad and James Frain as the desperate dastard. Of course, the authorities are clueless about what is happening between the heroes and the villains. Ironically, the law only complicates the situation and imperil our hero and his family. Frain looks particularly degenerate as the sleazy gang leader, while Harold Perrineau works up a lather as a trigger-happy henchman. “According to Greta” scenarist Michael Gilvary has cross-stitched the plots from the Dana Andrews’ epic “Hot Rods to Hell” (1967) and the Audrey Hepburn nail-biter “Wait Until Dark.” In ‘Hot Rods to Hell,” rebellious teens terrorized a family on a deserted stretch of highway. In “Wait Until Dark,” a deadly drug dealer stashed his narcotics in the blind heroine’s luggage for a transoceanic flight and the villains invaded her New York City apartment afterward to retrieve it. “Transit” received an R-rating for violence and terror, profane language and brief teen drug use in marijuana.

“Transit” opens with an armored car robbery. Indeed, it is an inside job, but the traitor doesn’t get a share of the loot. Instead, he takes a bullet. Afterward, the quartet of armored car robbers needs to figure out a way to get past a police roadblock without getting caught. They replace the camping gear strapped down atop of the Sidwell family SUV with their ill-gotten gains. Initially, the family has no clue about the villains have done. Marek (James Frain of “Titus”), Arielle (Diora Baird of “Wedding Crashers”), Losada (Harold Perrineau of “The Matrix Revolutions”), and Evers (Ryan Donowho of “Broken Flowers”) have fooled themselves into believing that they can retrieve their loot from the unsuspecting family before they realize that they’re  being used as a mule. Predictably, nothing goes as planned for either side, and those are the best dramatic moments. The conflict emerges from the situation. Our hero Nate (Jim Caviezel of “Outlander”) has just been paroled from prison. He served 18 months in a Federal Prison for real estate fraud. Now, poor Nate is struggling to get his wife Robyn (Elisabeth Röhm of “Abduction”) and his two sons together for a vacation when they run afoul of the bad guys. Some of the action will take you by surprise. Neither Negret nor Gilvary make it easy for either the heroes or their adversaries to achieve their respective objectives. No sooner do the villains have the loot than they lose it. Not long after the hero appropriates the millions, he loses it in the swamp. Could a suspicious looking fellow riding around the swamp in a boat have anything to do with the missing loot? If this weren’t enough, the hero’s wife mistakenly believes that Nate is involved with the villains.

The black 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle that the villains drive assumes a character of its own, and the long shots of it hauling down the highway look as cool as the spinning tire shots. Negret handles the chase sequences with aplomb. The car crash involving the Deputy Sheriff's Crown Victoria is pretty awesome. While nothing about this cat and mouse thriller is remotely original, the action is swiftly paced, and the acting is sturdy. Jim Caviezel turns in a good performance as the harried head of the family. No, he doesn’t get escape from this close encounter without sacrificing some flesh. Most of the action was lensed on location around Praireville, Louisiana. Clocking in at 88 minutes, “Transit” doesn’t wear out its welcome.