Reliving the thrills and action of Black Cat Run!

I just love road chase films, they’re a great template for lean, tense, and action-packed entertainment. Films like The Hitcher and Breakdown succeeded at the high art of achieving much with little and 1998’s Black Cat Run (that was co-written by Frank Darabont of Shawshank Redemption fame) became a worthy addition to this list, so let’s have a look!

A group of convicts led by the psychopathic Wheeler (Peter Greene) escapes from their labor duty in the Texas prairie. They pass through a small town, kill the sheriff, and take his daughter hostage. Her boyfriend Johnny (Patrick Muldoon) goes after them, with unhinged county deputy Norm (Jake Busey), who holds Johnny accountable for the sheriff’s death, on his heels. This triangle of violence is the catalyst for a relentless vehicle pursuit on the county roads. There’s no place to hide, no one to help, it’s all up to Johnny and his muscle car.

I Bet You a Case of Beer and a Hand Grenade he’s Headed for the State Line

Back in the 1990s HBO productions weren’t as lavish as today, and Black Cat Run has no gigantic set pieces or a star-studded cast to lure in viewers. But director D.J. Caruso and his crew convincingly demonstrated that you just need a handful of cars, a creative pyrotechnician, and committed actors make a killer action thriller.

Thanks to Darabont’s involvement, the script is sharp, full of hard-boiled characters and features plenty of witty and foulmouthed dialogues. The film also manages to flesh out its characters efficiently in the first 30 minutes, so that we can properly care about the good folks and despise the villains. And a swelter cinematography shows us grainy images of the endless Texas prairie that simultaneously evoke a sense of freedom and desolation.

He’s Lucky I Don’t rip off his Head and Shit Down his Goddamn Neck!

The cast of character actors turned out to be the perfect choice for their respective roles. Patrick Muldoon enjoyed a brief moment in the big spotlight after Starship Troopers the year before. He does a good job at portraying a fairly normal dude that turns into an action hero, and we can easily sympathize with his ordeal to save his girlfriend. Jake Busey is reliable as always in spicing things up and plays a hilariously aggressive and confused patrol officer. And Peter Greene’s Wheeler is a fantastically sleazy villain who enjoys running people over with his car.

The car action is gritty and kicks some serious ass. Nothing is overblown but there’s few total losses to satisfy our primordial need for watching things getting demolished and blown up. It’s all filmed realistically except in the finale that is a beautifully filmed pyrotechnics inferno with exploding barrels flying across the screen. 

The shootouts deliver a big dose of old-fashioned unnecessary brutality. It looks like squibs were on sale at the props store and apparently, they only had the big ones. All in all, it’s a great package of old-school action. Black Cat Run doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but that’s not needed to have a good time. This 90s low-budget classic perfectly achieves everything it’s going for: thrills and action in override mode!