In the post-Easy-Rider world, a good number of films popped up trying to emulate that film’s success, and the list saw fit to include one of them, for whatever reason. Two-Lane Blacktop is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, only with a lot less thrilling car races and a lot more social ennui and disconnected attitude. Films like this really depend on the day-to-day mood of the viewer; you have to be in the right frame of mind for a film like this, and if you’re not, there’s very little you can do to rectify that. I guess today wasn’t this film’s day with me.
The film follows two nameless men, referred to in the credits as the Driver and the Mechanic, as they drive their way across the iconic Route 66, making their living by challenging other drivers at stops along the way to races. Also along the way, they meet a girl, called the Girl, who basically invites herself along with the boys by hopping into their car, as well as a driver of a Pontiac G.T.O. who quickly becomes a rival to the men, prompting an extended race across the country to Washington, D.C. Here’s the thing about Two-Lane Blacktop; it really isn’t about the plot. Aside from the meetings with the G.T.O. driver, there is nothing pertaining to a narrative in this film. Not only does neither driver even get to D.C., but the would be romantic triangle between the two men and the girl doesn’t really amount to anything either. Really, the only thing that’s here is the pervasive sense of a culture, the culture of the drifting racecar driver, and honestly, there isn’t enough of that culture to make it worth the film’s running time. It doesn’t expound on the culture, it merely presents it for 100-some minutes and then ends in the most unceremonious way a film could possibly end. The actors, with the exception of Warren Oates, aren’t even really actors; they’re musicians, headed by notable singer James Taylor, and only barely seem like they’re making an effort. The film stock itself wasn’t all that great of quality either, especially during the night scenes; the filmmakers evidently didn’t have the budget or the wherewithal to get proper film stock for the night scenes, so all the night scenes in the film are so black that it’s almost impossible to make anything out. The whole thing just smelled of a barely passable amount of effort, and it was this apathetic attitude that caused me, in turn, to not care very much about the film itself.
I get why this ended up being as popular as it ended up being, especially in the wake of a film like Easy Rider. This is basically a counter-culture to the one presented in that film, and it was one that seemed at least enticing to a good number of the free-spirited rebels that would call the 1960s and 1970s their childhood. That said, I would’ve hoped that a film that tried to encapsulate such a culture would’ve at least been a little more… intriguing, or enticing. This was just a big heaping helping of “meh” for me, though there were a few moments scattered throughout that made me smile a little, like little pieces of chocolate chip in a big cake without any flavor to it. You might get more from it than I did, but it seems that this style of culture isn’t suited for my tastes.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10