We've all heard it said that if you remember the sixties, you weren't
there. Junior FBI agent John Buckner (SUTHERLAND) is trying
desperately to forget them in this 1990 comedy. But he can't. He's been assigned to escort fugitive Huey Walker (HOPPER) from San Francisco to Spokane to stand trial for a twenty-year old crime. Huey was a sixties activist that became a hero when he allegedly uncoupled the railroad car upon which Vice President Spiro Agnew was giving a speech. It was a prank that harmed nobody, it merely caused embarrassment; but the Feds didn't see it that way. They arrested him on a "malicious mischief" charge; he gave them the slip and went into hiding for twenty years..now an anonymous phone tip has landed him in a Bay area jail, and the FBI is out for vengeance with a trumped-up charge of "intent to kill the Vice President."
The Spokane airport is fogged in so Buckner decides to take the train. The perfect G-man to deal with Huey, he's ultra-conservative, despises anything remotely connected with the sixties, and Huey knows it:
"I think if I was a fly you'd pull my wings off. What happened? Did a hippie drop you on your head when you were a kid?"
Buckner doesn't drink or smoke and he sets an alarm to take vitamins. He orders "broiled fish, no salt, no oil, a mineral water, and a plain green salad with no dressing." So you can understand my delight at what happens to him next. Huey convinces him that he spiked the mineral water with LSD, and coffee will make the 'trip' worse...he needs a downer. In no time the squeaky-clean Buckner is doing a hooker along with straight shots of tequila while Huey shaves his beard, cuts his hair, and switches clothing. At a train stop in Marsden, Oregon, "Agent Buckner" deposits a hungover 'army deserter' in a local jail and walks off. Sleazy Sheriff Hightower (CLIFF DeYOUNG), who's busy with his Congressional campaign, discovers which one is the real FBI agent only after brutalizing him.
Huey escapes to a bar where Hal and Barry (MICHAEL McKEON and RICHARD MASUR), two baby boomers, are upset because their theme song, "Born to Be Wild" has been replaced on the new CD jukebox with an INXS tune. 'Agent Buckner' informs them that he's got their hero across the street in jail. They decide to prove that they haven't sold out to the establishment: by kidnapping him and making a trade. The Sheriff agrees to meet them outside of town on a deserted bridge. When they realize that they've turned the real Huey Walker over to the police, they flee, leaving Huey and Buckner in the middle of nowhere with Hightower. Hightower is afraid that Buckner will press charges against him for abuse of prisoners so he's going to kill both of them. I was rooting for Hightower to just kill Buckner, but the plot twists here, and we learn a shocking secret about Buckner and who really made that anonymous phone call to the FBI about Huey.
I'll watch any film that stars Dennis Hopper, (see Red Rock West); and he's magnificent in this role that seems made for him: the hippie still clinging to sixties' ideals while contemplating capitalism. "You're twenty-six and already entered middle-age, Buckner! When I was your age I bought a second-hand Indian and crossed the country, saw America. She was beautiful back then...I'm talking about the real America, the human highway. I think she's still out there, sleeping, hiding behind the pizza huts and 7-11's."
"The sixties are over, Huey. Times have changed and passed you by. We can't all be flower children for the rest of our lives."
"We don't have to be in such an all-fired hurry to grow up, either. We can have some fun first." Amen!
When Hal and Barry insist that they haven't "joined the system" Huey makes a reference to the film that made Hopper a star:
"It takes more than going down to your video store and renting EASY RIDER to be a rebel."
Huey is not the only one trying to juggle 1960's values with modern conveniences. CAROL KANE plays Maggie, the last survivor of a hippie commune who worships Huey Walker. She's used to baking her own bread and spinning silk on an old loom but lately has been "dreaming about microwave ovens and food processors." Maggie is a great character, but her lispy voice annoys me.
McKeon and Masur add additional fun (as if Hopper isn't enough). They represent the majority of us...unhappy about aging, longing for the days when a bar was a bar and not an 'alcohol boutique' but admitting that some change is good:
"Nobody has a bad ass anymore...they've got machines now, Hal. But we've got no tone left to tone."
I stand with Hal and Barry. Only some changes are good. I'm writing this review on a PC, so I can correct errors or change paragraphs around in seconds. Thirty years ago I would have wasted countless sheets of typing paper. Paradoxically I want to cry when I see all of the little corner grocers disappearing in favor of super Walmarts and Wegman's. I could go on and on, but it's futile. Thankfully in little pockets of the country can be found some old-fashioned Americana. It's still out there, "...sleeping, hiding behind the pizza huts and 7-11's."
Return to my movie list