Every dream has its price... From Executive Producer Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester) comes another compelling story of a teenage dreamer. Johnny (Jesse Bradford, Clockstoppers) has run away from home to... more » pursue his fantasy to race cars--but he runs into trouble and out of money in Las Vegas. Gay street hustler Eric (Jordan Brower, Teen Angel) befriends Johnny and introduces him to his gang, including brash Steven (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Home Improvement) and charming Wilma (Tiffani Thiessen, Beverly Hills 90210). Johnny also meets Eric's surrogate mom Veronica (Daryl Hannah, Splash). As the two boys become close, they are confronted with a life-threatening situation involving drugs, money, and betrayal, and Johnny must decide if he has what it takes to follow his dream.« less
Callie K. (ballofglitter) from GRAND ISLAND, NE Reviewed on 8/14/2014...
I first watched this movie when people could still upload whole movies on YouTube and I liked it so much I looked everywhere to buy it but it's so hard to find. I finally found a copy and I liked this movie because I thought it had a great story. A story about not judging someone because they just might be the one to save your life and how people you'd never expect could end being the bestest friend you've ever had. The end is a bit of a tear jerker but it definitely worth watching once. For me it was worth waiting and searching everywhere until I found it to buy.
Compelling if imperfect character study
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film provides an interesting combination of "name" actors in an independent venture telling an off-beat story of friendship and love. Jesse Bradford (Johnny), Jordan Brower (Eric), and Darryl Hannah (Veronica) give strong performances, while Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Steve) delivers a good performance that is perhaps just a bit too studied to be completely believable. This is JTT's second film dealing with a gay theme (he was previously in Showtime's "Common Ground", playing a gay high-school athlete.) It is certainly enjoyable to see him again playing against type -- in this case taking a hit off a hash pipe and brandishing a cigarette while tossing around the f-word -- but for me there was something missing in his portrait of a streetwise bisexual hustler. Since his character Steve is a supporting player rather than a lead, whatever weaknesses lurk in JTT's work don't affect the overall quality of the film too much. I still like it enough to award it 4 stars. There is much sincerity and craft here.Indeed, this movie is for the most part excellent. Brower has the most opportunity to show his range as an actor and he takes good advantage of it. His character Eric is gay and in love with the straight Johnny played by Jesse Bradford. Eric knows that his attraction to Johnny is doomed to remain one-sided, and Brower communicates Eric's emotional turmoil about this very effectively. This is especially true in a crucial scene where he finally expresses his feelings to Johnny.My one quibble is with some clunkiness in the script. There are convenient coincidences that jolt the viewer with their unlikelihood, as when an older man is driving Johnny around town and Johnny finally figures out what the man is after. Johnny jumps out of the car at a random street corner then walks a few paces, only to find Eric seated curbside on a bench. There is no acknowledgement of how strange and lucky this happenstance is -- the characters simply start talking as though they'd been planning to meet up all along. Another coincidence occurs when one character is out on his own and gets beat up badly, only to awaken days later in another character's apartment. How did this amazing rescue happen to take place? We are expected to believe that another character stumbled upon the unconscious victim and, remembering him from a prior evening, got him to a safe haven. What I like most about the film is the way it tells the story of Eric's redemption through selfless love. Knowing that sexual consummation is impossible, Eric nonetheless perseveres in his devotion to Johnny. In one scene he even engineers a life-changing experience for Johnny that, as transforming as it is for Johnny, at the same time causes Eric considerable personal pain. Both Eric and Johnny are changed by their friendship in a way that is truly moving. Johnny comes to recognize Eric as the best friend he has ever had, and Eric finds solace in the knowledge that he has for the first time been able to feel a kind of true, selfless love for another person. The characters' growth toward these realizations is well-handled. We are engrossed in what we see as Johnny gradually becomes more street-smart, and we can sympathize with Eric as he lets down his guard and learns to trust his feelings for Johnny. Johnny also comes to understand how Eric feels and is finally capable of returning his affection, if only in his own way. That said, the ending of the film is something of a disappointment (that clunky script again.) I will not spoil anything here, but suffice to say that the story resorts to a tired plot device that ruined many a gay-themed movie in the 70's and 80's, in what I see as a desperate ploy for the (potentially straight?) audience's deepest sympathies. I wish the writer/director had had more confidence in the ability of the characters to emotionally involve the viewer and spared us the cliched turn of events. This ending did not have to be.As for "rated-R" content, there is no nudity and sex of the heterosexual type is alluded to more than actually depicted. There is no gay sex shown although it is certainly discussed. Which means that the "R" rating is mainly due to language and adult themes -- a rather tame "R" when considered altogether.From a technical standpoint, the DVD version of this film renders everything beautifully. Much of the film takes place at night, resulting in a shadowy milieu, but the picture is sharp and clear. In the area of sound, however, problems arise. Spoken dialog seems to be reproduced at a lower level than the background music. As a result I found myself cranking up the volume for many of the dialog scenes, only to have to turn it back down again when the soundtrack kicked in at full force."
Viva Lost Vegas
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 02/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some have said this movie isn't "real" enough . . . but it needn't be. What it is, is a film with a lot of heart and if one approaches it as a fable, you'll find it works. It's a heartbreaker of a movie with strong, committed performances by everyone involved. Dreams of NASCAR collide with male prostitution, shattered dreams and street life in Vegas for a gripping, sometimes unsettling, beautiful little movie. "
Strong debut for its writer-director
N. Perry | Portland, Or | 05/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nickolas Perry's "Speedway Junky" sounds like a race-car thriller but is actually a tender love story set in the Las Vegas underbelly. Inevitably it recalls "Midnight Cowboy" in some aspects but possesses sufficient individuality and personality to avoid being derivative. It marks an unusually mature feature debut for writer-director Perry, who combines visual grace and nuanced portrayals from an array of carefully chosen actors, including Daryl Hannah, in one of her sharper performances. Jesse Bradford stars as Johnny, an Army brat who has run away from his home on a California military base to head for Charlotte, N.C., determined to become a member of race car driver Richard Petty's crew, the first step toward becoming a racing champion himself. He stops in Las Vegas with the idea of earning some quick money to finance the rest of his trip, but in no time he's separated from his last $20 and a pack containing all his possessions. When in desperation he unsuccessfully hits upon a woman in an expensive car for a handout, he is observed by another youth, Eric (Jordan Brower), hanging out in the same nondescript strip mall as Johnny. There's a big difference in the two young men. For all his gentle demeanor and sensitivity Eric is a seasoned hustler who understands the old Vegas truth that you don't get anything for nothing. Eric offers shelter to Johnny, who he discovers is a young man of stunning naivete. Johnny is willing to hustle, but only women. Eric, who is gay, accepts that Johnny is straight but can't help falling in love with him anyway. As Johnny enters a world of danger and uncertainty, he realizes he can love Eric as the best friend he's ever had, even if he is not sexually attracted to him. Perry takes us into the world of convenience stores, cheap apartments, deserted parking-structure stairwells and cruising areas that exist in the shadows outside the bright lights of Vegas. Johnny meets Veronica (Hannah), Eric's late mother's friend who's slid from the chorus line to prostitution to the arms of the tough vice cop who arrested her. She and Eric have a mother-son bond, and Hannah is wonderful at conveying Veronica's wisdom, vulnerability and ultimate resilience. Key among Eric's pals is Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Steve, a determined hustler who overestimates his street smarts. Patsy Kensit is a chic prostitute. With its shifting moods captured beautifully by both Stan Ridgway's poignant score and Steve Adcock's evocative camera work, "Speedway Junky" is a potent mixture of sentiment and grit, and it showcases the talents of its young principals. Gus Van Sant signed on as one of the film's executive producers, and Perry has come up with a movie worthy of the support of the director of "Mala Noche," "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho."(Los Angeles Times Film Review)"
Watch it with the director's commentary "on"
James D. Leverton | San Marcos, CA USA | 10/03/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've never recommended a DVD solely for the director's commentary before, but I'm doing just that with Nickolas Perry's "Speedway Junky" (1999). The film itself is a totally predictable, sanitized view of Las Vegas street hustlers that contains two very good performances (one by someone you'd never expect), one terrible performance by a badly miscast former child star and a dual ending that is both misguided and, in the case of the tacked-on "happy" ending, insulting to the audience's intelligence. In all, "Speedway Junky" is a definite mixed bag; however, the DVD version is redeemed by an excellent director's commentary in which writer/director Perry provides an honest critique of his own work and gives an invaluable lesson on the process of making an independent film in today's Hollywood.
Jesse Bradford, who as a child gave one of 1992's best performances in Steven Soderberg's forgotten gem "King of the Hill," stars as Johnny, a teenage drifter who is hitchhiking from Los Angeles to Daytona Beach to join the Nascar circuit as a pit crew worker. To fund his journey, he takes a detour to Las Vegas, hoping to parlay his meager assets into enough money to complete his trip and then live on until he finds work. Unfortunately, within minutes of his arrival in town, he loses his money and all his possessions. His circumstances look bleak until he catches the eye of Eric (Jordan Brower), a gay teenage street hustler who falls in love with him at first sight and takes him in. Eric also initiates him into his seedy world and extended family, including his adopted "mother," an ex-showgirl and junky wonderfully played by Daryl Hannah, and various friends and "associates," including a shady fellow hustler named Steven (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Although Johnny is straight, he and Eric form a strong friendship and bond which gets them both through the bleak days ahead, as Johnny vainly tries to earn money by hustling women and Eric's shady friends threaten their very existence.
The main problem with "Speedway Junky" is that it so predictable that the audience will know exactly how it is going end almost from the moment it starts. It is also extremely derivative of countless earlier, and better, films, including its obvious main source of inspiration--John Schlesinger's 1969 Oscar winner "Midnight Cowboy." As for the performances, they are uneven, to say the least. Jesse Bradford is an excellent young actor, but he overacts constantly and gives a totally annoying performance as Johnny, which isn't good when you are the film's hero. And poor Jonathan Taylor Thomas is simply horrible as the devious hustler Steven; in fact, after the shock value of hearing the clean-cut former child star use four letter words and graphically describe anal sex is over, his entire act becomes tiresome until late in the film when he is required to become vicious and then he is laughable. On the other hand, Hannah is wonderful as a faded beauty who has hit rock-bottom, and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Patsy Kensit have nice cameos as two of Johnny's potential female "tricks." And then there's Jordan Brower, who is simply wonderful as Eric, giving the kind of eye-opening, and wholly unexpected, performance that in a better, and more widely-seen, film would have brought him a great deal of attention. He is simply working at a level the rest of the cast, with the exception of Hannah, don't come close to reaching. In fact, his scenes with Hannah provide all of the film's best, and most realistic moments. (Take special note of Eric's "breakdown" scene which is beautifully rendered.)
As for the film's other problems, they are numerous and start with the weak screenplay, which ends by trashing the most sympathetic character in the film and then tacks on a happy ending that is unbelievable, to say the least. But don't take my word for it, just listen to writer/director Perry's own commentary, which leads me back to where I began. The commentary is extremely illuminating in that Perry explains every single detail of the production of the film and why he did the things he did. Why did he add a silly, and unnecessary chase scene halfway through? Why was Jonathan Taylor-Thomas cast in a role he was clearly wrong for? Why does he have a long and boring credit sequence at the beginning when it clearly hurts the flow of the film? And why the heck did he trash the one gay character in the film and not predict that audiences would hate him for it? For that matter, why did he include the ridiculous final scene? He answers all these questions and in the process teaches us all that even in today's independent film world, to get financing for a film you have to make the same kind of compromises that are necessary when working with the studios. It is an eye-opening lesson, to be sure, and one that all aspiring filmmakers would do well to learn from.
In all, "Speedway Junky" is a failure, and an extremely unlucky one at that. After sitting on the shelf for two years it finally received a theatrical run at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles starting on August 30, 2001. Eleven days later the twin towers fell and moviegoing did a nose-dive, ending whatever chance this film had of having a theatrical life. It's right where it belongs--on DVD, with its excellent commentary giving it a reason for existence. ** (out of *****) for the film and **** for the commentary."
AMAZING PERFORMANCE FOR SUCH A YOUNG CAST...
Richard Selph | U.S.A. | 04/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In a word...WOW! Speedway Junkie is quite possibly one of the best movies I have ever viewed. As an avid movie buff, I watch movies from many different perspectives. I look for movies that entertain, educate, cover a broad scale of emotions and leave me wanting more from the performance. Rarely do I see a movie that does all of this...Speedway Junkie does!Covering the topic of young hustlers in Las Vegas, Speedway Junkie focuses on the emotional toll this type of lifestyle has on its young victims versus that actual work they are doing. Mixed in is the usual cast of supporting characters that live this life and the newcomer struggling to fit in. Additionally, you have the older veteran who has given up the life and shares past wisdom as they struggle to move on. With a dynamic young cast, Speedway Junkie shines as one of Director, Gus Van Sant's films.Jonathan Taylor Thomas delivers a strong performance that makes it nearly impossible to remember the "Home Improvement" days. His role is so different from that of the middle child, that it is almost hard to believe it's the same person.Daryl Hannah also delivers a strong performance as a strung out dancer (Veronica) who is serving in a maternal role for her friends widowed child. She is believable and displays a wide range of emotion in her role.Jesse Bradford's role as the naive newcomer is the glue that holds the plot together. His portrayal of the innocent "Johnny" truly grabs you from the beginning and makes you want to see him succeed in his mission of getting to N.C. The star of the film is Jordan Brower in the role of "Eric". By the conclusion of the film, I was so emotionally bought into his character that I actually felt he was someone I needed to help. It is rare that I see a movie where the actor moves me in a way that I can't stop thinking about the film days later. Jordan Brower does this. As I look at well-known stars and the projects that they work on today, I am often taken back to some of their earlier films. It is usually this work that shines as their best!. The acting is real and motivated and has some meaning to the person (actor) other than being a job. Jordan, quite possibly, has done his best work with Speedway Junkie. If you see this movie for any reason, see it for the performance delivered by Jordan in the role of "Eric'.Overall this is a great movie to see and a very well directed film. Gus Van Sant does a wonderful job with such a rough topic and young talent."