Robert Rodriguez's Road Racers premiered on Showtime as part of its now-defunct Rebel Highway series of original movies "inspired" by classic AIP exploitation films from the '50s. David Arquette stars as a shiftless, no-good, rock 'n' roll-crazed drifter set on shaking up an uptight small town ruled by power-mad sheriff William Sadler and Sadler's thuggish son. Sadler, of course, doesn't approve of him, or his romance with straight-arrow Mexican bombshell Salma Hayek, so he plots to run him out of town. Arquette, meanwhile, gets an offer to play guitar with a promising rockabilly band, and must make a choice: getting even with Sadler or leaving town to become a rock 'n' roller. The plot is largely irrelevant, though, as Road Racers gets most of its kick from Rodriguez's hyper-kinetic visual style and a surprisingly witty screenplay. Rodriguez is clearly a virtuoso working at the top of his form, and the film's lurid, over-the-top histrionics suit his talents nicely. The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Arquette's runtish rebel-without-a-cause and Sadler's crazed disciplinarian. The standout performance, however, is turned in by John Hawkes as Arquette's geeky, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-obsessed sidekick; Hawkes steals every scene he's in. Road Racers is knockout exploitation filmmaking: fast, furious, nihilistic, and deliriously entertaining.

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